As part of our work at the Voter Reference Foundation, we compare the Total Ballots Cast in an election (total turnout or TBC) with the number of Registered Voters whose Vote History shows they have credit for voting in an election (RVBC).
To accomplish this, we request the certified voter history file from the election officials, as well as the official turnout number or total ballots cast election-wide.
The total number of ballots cast/total turnout is a data point that while not required by many state statutes, IS required by the federal agency tasked with assisting in elections, the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC).
On March 9, 2022, Voter Reference Foundation provided our results of this comparison to the chief election officials in Oklahoma and asked for their feedback:
Dear Secretary Ziriax,
Our team at VoteRef.com has done a comparative analysis of the total ballots cast election-wide in Oklahoma in the 2020 General Election according to the certified canvasses and official turnout reports, and the voter history file provided by your office, to reconcile the total number of ballots cast with the total number of voters in a jurisdiction with credit for voting in the 2020 GE according to OK State Election Board data.
Our review indicates that there are 1,537,540 voters in OK with a credit for having voted in the 2020 General Election, and 1,560,699 total ballots cast election wide as per the official reports issued by OK State Election Board data. This creates a discrepancy between registered voters with ballots cast (RVBC) and total ballots cast (TBC) of 23,159. This number represents more ballots cast than registered voters who have credit for voting.
Please provide any feedback you have on these results, and if there is a factor or factors that we may be unaware of that would explain the discrepancies.
When we provided our results of this comparison to the chief election official in Oklahoma, we were told on March 11, 2022 that our comparison is not effective as the total ballots cast is not certified by the state, but rather, to obtain that data we would need to make an appointment with each of the 77 county clerks in the state of Oklahoma and make copies of the paper precinct registers and absentee affidavits for each county and collate the data:
Have you contacted the county election boards to view precinct registries and absentee balloting material?
To accurately compile the complete list of voters who voted in the 2020 General Election, please contact each county election board and request to review the following paper records: 1. the precinct registries, 2. the in-person absentee affidavits, and 3. the mail-in/other types of absentee ballot affidavits for that county. These records are maintained for 24 months and are available for public inspection at the county election board as required by law. A directory of county election boards can be found at https://oklahoma.gov/elections/about-us/county-election-boards.html.
We reached out to all 77 counties in Oklahoma as instructed by the OK State Election Board. Here are a few of their responses:
Due to the large volume of this request your records will be scanned electronically and payment for fulfillment of this request will be required in advance. We estimate the cost of fulfillment to be approximately $15,000.00. If, during the course of fulfillment, it becomes apparent that the cost will exceed the estimated amount we will notify you of any additional money owed and work will proceed once we receive the requested amount. If the final cost of fulfillment is less than the estimated amount we will issue you a refund for the unused portion.
Muskogee County Election Board
A rough estimate will be around $2,700.00 to include copies, time in copying and shipping. We won’t know an exact amount until all of the items are copied and we get an exact time used. You are welcome to come here and view the documents in person, just let us know a couple of days ahead of time since all of these items are in storage.
Pittsburg County Election Board
The estimated cost for copies and services would be around $1450.00. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact our office.
Creek County Election Board
Our initial review of your request indicates there are potentially 10,000 records that are responsive. Due to the voluminous amount of these records, this office would advise that there is a 25 cent per page copy fee. Before we begin preparing and copying these records, please contact this office to discuss this expense. Once a deposit is received, we can begin copying.
Murray County Election Board
If you are requesting that we (the County Election Board Staff) retrieve, copy, scan, mail/email the requested documents there will be fees of $.25 cents per copy, $.25 cents per page scanned, $.25 cents per computer generated copies/reports, $21.00 per hour for time spent retrieving documents, mechanical reproduction of documents, packaging of documents for delivery plus postage cost (if required), Flash Drive- Current Cost paid by CEB. The cost is Estimated to be over $1,000.00.
How is it that the public must go to 77 county election officials and expend a considerable amount of time and money to attempt to ascertain what the total ballots cast number is for the election?
This brings us to the question, what does it mean to ‘certify’ the canvass? The canvass is the official count for each race, or contest, on the ballot. Part of that data is the turnout, the number of ballots cast in each of those races. However, the total statewide turnout is not included in the canvass, only the race totals.
How is the chief election official ‘certifying’ the race totals without having access to the total election-wide turnout for the jurisdictions in each of the counties in the state?
Why is the chief election official in a state that has certified a canvass unable to provide the simple data point: how many ballots were cast in the election?
How is the chief election official providing an ‘official’ turnout number to a federal agency if they are unable to provide an official number to our foundation or to the public?
This is a public policy issue ripe for discussion.
- Should a chief election official tasked with certifying a canvass that comprises the official election results be able to attest to the total number of ballots cast election-wide in the state in that election?
Our position is yes, absolutely they should, and if they cannot, then they should not be certifying the results of the election. The total number of ballots cast election-wide is an essential datapoint in any election.
If the chief election official in a state does not review the turnout data from the counties that held an election and cannot attest to the accuracy of the total ballots cast and the total voters who voted, to RECONCILE those two data points, then there is an essential piece missing when these election officials represent the election as certified.
Let’s restore confidence by beginning at the beginning – election officials should certify the total ballots cast election-wide in every election.