Tulsa County election officials certified a new winner in the razor-thin House District 71 election Wednesday – only to discover two more ballots that apparently had remained unsecured in election equipment for days and which would reverse the results again if counted. The whole mess will be taken to court on Thursday morning for Tulsa County District Judge Daman Cantrell to figure out. The day started with Democrat Dan Arthrell ahead by three votes in the April 3 election. At the request of Republican candidate Katie Henke, Cantrell ordered a recount Wednesday, which resulted in Arthrell losing four votes and Henke being certified as the winner by one vote. But several hours later, acting at the urging of Arthrell’s supporters, election officials reinspected election equipment and found two more ballots from the election – both for Arthrell, enough to swing the returns in the other direction.
Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant said she was horrified when the ballots were discovered. The ballots were in a black box that sits underneath vote-tallying machines to collect ballots. At the end of the day, the ballots were supposed to have been taken from the box, put in a transfer box and taken to the Election Board for securing, but it appears that the two ballots were never collected by precinct workers, Bryant said. The up and down day left even the candidates uncertain as to who had won. “We’ll wait for the judge to tell us tomorrow,” said Arthrell.