Paul Ziriax said Friday that voting in Oklahoma will be very different next year. Ziriax, secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, said vote-counting technology used across the state will be overhauled by February.
Oklahoma counties use a standardized device that requires the voter to use either a No. 2 pencil or a special pen.
“In the case of absentee ballots, since we can’t send a special pen to every single voter that gets an absentee ballot, that’s why we instruct them to use a No. 2 pencil,” he said.
Ziriax said installation of the new machines will take place in December and January. That time frame was chosen because there were no elections then.
Rhonda Bemo, a clerk with the Muskogee County Election Board, said they are looking forward to the upgrade.
“The new machines we’re getting ready to get will read anything,” Bemo said.
Absentee ballots used by Muskogee County, like those in the other 76 Oklahoma counties, bear instructions to use a No. 2 pencil only. Bemo said existing ballot-counting machines are very particular about the mark made by a voter.
“People at home might have a red or purple pen or something,” she said. “It wouldn’t read.”
Bemo added that it’s a misperception to think an election outcome could be altered by someone changing pencil marks. The machines that read the ballots are too sensitive.