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State election board in time crunch preparing for elections

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Updated 1/21 at 11:47 a.m.

The state election board has less time than usual to prepare for elections.

Assistant Secretary Rusty Clark spoke to a House appropriations subcommittee Thursday and said the biggest challenge for the board is reprecincting. The board wasn’t able to start reviewing precincts until December because of redistricting delays. About 150 new precincts are expected to be created, and the work will be completed by March or April.

“That will be about half the time we normally take to do that. It’s a huge, Herculean feat, but it will be done,” said Clark.

The board is requesting more than $10.2 million in appropriations for fiscal year 2023. $130,000 marked for the new precincts and other projects is in addition to that request.

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Clark also said the board has requested American Rescue Plan funds for a new voting system. He described electronic poll books that digitally keep track of voter registration.

Both Clark and Secretary Paul Ziriax emphasized the security of Oklahoma’s elections, but said the board has seen complaints about fraud.

“There were allegations that all 77 county election boards had a cyber intrusion and had election results changed. It was not credible,” said Ziriax.

Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore) said maybe people who latch onto certain theories ought to try getting out into the real world instead.

“I know a lot of conversations I’ve had with constituents who think something might’ve went on with this last election or whatever, I’ve been directing them to get in contact with their local county election board to get involved. There’s no better way to dispel misinformation,” said West.

Clark agreed, referencing his time as secretary of the Cherokee County Election Board.

“That is something I have done as a recruitment tool for years. If you’re not willing to put your money where your mouth is, that’s a thing,” said Clark.

This article was updated to reflect a more accurate dollar amount for requested appropriations.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.