Problems with mailing in votes in general aside, our local elections still show signs that absentee votes are skewed toward certain candidates. And more than a little, this is enough to be the difference in a win and a loss in some cases.
Oklahoma Liberty & Integrity has been watching primary elections across our state, and we’d like to point out what we recently observed about the school board primary and runoff elections for Edmond Public Schools.
Take a look at these charts showing how much of of the vote for each candidate running for their respective offices came from mail in ballots. Starting with February 8:
In February there were 5 candidates running for EPS office 2, and 3 candidates for office 5. Cheryl Williams and Courtney Hobgood received the most votes in their contest, advancing to the runoff, and in the other race Marcus Jones and Michale Grande advanced. In the first race, while the average share of mail in votes for all candidates was 7%, Williams only took in 3.23%, as compared to Hobgood’s 6.58%. In other words, Cheryl Williams only got half the proportion. The 3 remaining candidates had even higher levels, topping out at 11.6%. In the second, the average was 11.1% overall, but Michael Grande only saw 3.54% of his total vote come from mail in ballots.
A pattern is developing. In this completely non-partisan school board election, with two races occurring at the same time, one candidate in each race sees a much smaller share of mail in votes, and one or more other candidates are way over the average within the same race. We’re calling this a pattern because it isn’t the first time we’ve seen it.
In the runoff, while Grande & Williams both increased to the 5-6% range, on par with the previous averages, this time 12% of Hobgood’s vote came from mail ins, and almost that much for Jones. Both had higher rates than any of the candidates in the first race for office 2 (and 5, excluding the outlier Deonna Maxfield with more than 20% (she only had 79 votes total).
The contest between Courtney Hobgood and Chery Williams had a dropoff of 650 votes from the first race, which is fairly typical for runoffs. However, the Office 5 race interestingly saw an uptick of 1,536 votes, topping out at 5,016 votes the second time.
The Office 5 race has us particularly concerned, as the final outcome was closer than the first, only 52 votes separating the two. That race also flipped during the reporting that night, with Grande in the lead at one point. He had the most votes on Election Day, too, consistent with what we saw in the 2020 election where Republicans won across the board, yet Democrats had high mail-in rates. If their total vote stayed the same, but mail in numbers had been more in line with the average, the outcome here would have been different.
Lastly, for now, another analysis we are looking at gives us a glimpse into more precisely where the votes are coming from. It can also help point to outlier areas. These scatter plots can show both percentages and vote amounts precinct-by-precinct or at a larger scale.
The two races from April 5th are each shown at scales relative to their individual number of votes. The trend line gives a visual as to how close to the overall trend the vote was in any given precinct. Keep in mind, one of the precincts reports for all the absentee votes in a county. However, we are finding that this practice is inconsistent, and sometimes they’re assigned to individual precincts, making the comparisons more difficult. You may notice some of the points are very close, and others stand out. Any point to the left of/above the line shows precincts where the election’s winner exceeded their overall performance, and likewise points to the other side show where the opposing candidate did better. Each race also had 11 precincts, though they are not the same ones in each.
The scatter plots are presented here as additional information and for context. The true concern at this time is over the repeating pattern with mail in ballots.
While we don’t mean to single out any candidate running for public office – in fact OKLIG thanks any and all who choose to serve their communities and shape the government – we do want to ensure elections are clean, and free from discrepancy. There are other recent races in Oklahoma we’re asking questions about.