Good Government

Election recount measure moves ahead

March 3, 2021

Ray Carter

Ballot measures that pass by very narrow margins would be subject to automatic election recounts under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 2564, by Rep. Chad Caldwell, would require a recount for any state-question election in which the outcome is determined by a margin 0.5 percent or less of the total number of votes cast for and against a ballot measure changing state law, or a margin of 1 percent for ballot measures changing the Oklahoma Constitution.

The bill would also allow for a recount to be requested by the governor, attorney general, or Oklahoma State Election Board secretary.

Under current law, Caldwell noted recounts are not allowed for ballot-measure elections, but they can be requested by candidates in other races.

The legislation comes after State Question 802, which expanded Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to include up to 628,000 able-bodied adults, passed by an extremely narrow margin under historically unusual circumstances on June 30, 2020.

State Question 802 was rejected by a majority of voters in 70 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. The measure was also rejected by 55 percent of the 545,473 election-day voters who cast ballots in person.

However, SQ 802 still passed by 6,553 votes out of 674,591 total cast, a margin of just under 1 percent, primarily due to absentee ballots. Of the 94,614 absentee mail ballots counted in the June 30 election, 80 percent were in favor of SQ 802.

Had the provisions of HB 2564 been in place during the June 2020 election for State Question 802, the State Election Board estimates that the cost of a recount would have been approximately $181,500. Had a recount been required for a measure placed before voters on the November 2020 ballot, the cost would have been approximately $328,500 due to the higher voter turnout.

During a February committee hearing on HB 2564, Caldwell said only two ballot measures in the last 30 years have passed by margins of less than 1 percent.

HB 2564 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a vote of 76-17 that broke along party lines with Republicans in support.