Pott. County Election board counting votes each week, absentee ballot applications still coming in

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Election 2020

For the last several weeks the Pottawatomie County Election Board has received a record number of absentee ballot applications and returned ballots in which they continue to count weekly as the Presidential Election approaches on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

According to County Election Board Secretary Jeannie Stover, as of Friday, Oct. 23, voters have submitted 5,756 absentee ballot applications. The board has received 3,421 ballots back so far and 2,666 have been counted. 

Stover said the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 and early, in-person voting is scheduled 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday Oct. 29-30, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31. 

Stover said for the past several weeks, she and a nominated representative from both the county Democratic and Republican parties have been meeting once a week and counting ballots returned by mail.

“When a person gets their packet it has an affidavit envelope, it has a ballot envelope, it has instructions with it plus their ballots,” Stover said. 

The counting process, Stover said, takes a while as she and the two representatives must go through various stages to properly process the ballots. 

She said they first look to see what their total number of ballots should be and then determine that they have the correct number. 

“At that time of having enough we open the very first envelope and at that time of opening it we see if it’s been notarized and if the ID is sitting right there we’re good to go,” Stover said. “We try to get everything opened up in this first envelope so they can continue being opened up in stages.” 

Stover said if the envelope isn’t notarized or there’s no form of identification, then the ballot is set aside and it’s not processed. 

Following the first step of opening the first envelope, Stover said she and the representatives then continue opening the envelopes in stages and begin processing the ballots. 

“We open an e-scan machine made for in-person, mailed in and walk in ballots and then I assign someone to start processing the ballots,” Stover said. 

Stover said once all ballots have been processed in some way whether they were counted or rejected because of insufficient information, then a thumb drive recording the total number of ballots is removed from the e-scan machine. 

“It only gives us a total count of what went through as far as numbers. Not people just numbers,” Stover said. “ So we take the ballots out and seal them up. The board signs off on them and they are put into the custody of the deputy with the Sheriff’s Office. They are taken and locked up.” 

Stover said the deputy brings back the thumb drive with the total count each week and the board adds on the latest number of counted ballots. 

“When we get down to our (meeting) on the Monday before the election, we might have to open another (drive) and you can do that,” Stover said. “You can have multiple drives. It all merges together in the end.” 

On Election Day, Stover said the board will count and process any ballots that are cast in the polls or arrive through the post office by 7 p.m. 

According to County Election Board Assistant Secretary Patricia Carter, all safety protocols and policies put in place to protect people from COVID-19 still apply to the Nov. 3 election. 

According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, the policies for in person voting include social distancing, the requirement of masks or face coverings and provided Personal Protective Equipment for poll workers. 

Carter said absentee ballot application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at 14101 Acme Road, Shawnee, or voters can apply online at www.elections.ok.gov or print off and mail their applications by Oct. 27.

Stover said ballots must be in the hands of the Election Board officials by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. 

For more information regarding absentee ballots, voting and COVID-19 protocols visit www.ok.gov/elections/.

Check back for updates.