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Oklahoma power outages won't stop Tuesday's election

By Carmen Forman Gannett/The Oklahoman
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Tuesday’s election will go on as planned even if some polling places are still affected by power outages from the ice storm that rocked the Oklahoma City metro area last week.

Power companies have put a priority on restoring electricity to polling locations, state officials said last week.

“If any of our local election locations actually report an outage, we’re responding to it as a critical emergency,” said Mark Gower, Department of Emergency Management director.

Gower said he asked OG&E and other power companies to prioritize restoring electricity to those locations. If power cannot quickly be restored to some polling places, the department is working on supplying generators in time for Election Day.

OG&E's director of Corporate Affairs, Brian Alford, said crews are planning on having power restored to all polling locations within its service area before Election Day.

"We continue to coordinate with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to make sure polling stations have power for Tuesday's elections," he said. "According to our most recent data, power has been restored to the vast majority of polling places within our service area — more than 96% of the approximately 800 stations."

Oklahoma County alone has more than 150 polling locations in churches, libraries, community centers and schools across the area.

County election boards in all 77 counties also have contingency plans in case of a power outage, said State Board of Elections spokeswoman Misha Mohr.

“This is something we prepare for in advance of every election, especially with Oklahoma’s wild, unpredictable weather,” she said.

Oklahomans will still be able to vote at their polling place even if the location doesn’t have power because Oklahoma uses paper ballots, she said.

“All of the voting machines have ‘emergency bins’ where ballots can be deposited in the event of a power outage or technical issue,” she said. “Ballots can then be counted by the voting machine once the power is back on or they can be counted at the County Election Board.”

It’s not clear if having to count some ballots later in the evening, after the polls have closed, could delay final election results.

The State Board of Elections anticipates having results on its website after the election even if it means election workers are still counting ballots until late in the evening, Mohr said.

Oklahomans planning to vote in-person can double-check their polling location through the OK Voter Portal, at okvoterportal.okelections.us.