Tulsa County Vision vote results questioned

Posted at 7:42 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-16 20:42:03-04

Leading up to the Tulsa County Vision sales tax vote in April, four legal notices from the county should have appeared in the Tulsa World. 

The notices are detailed descriptions of exactly what voters were being asked to vote on and are required by state law. 

The only problem is that county officials realized after the April 5 vote that only one notice was printed in the newspaper. 

Now a judge could potentially invalidate the results and call for a new election. The idea of a new vote doesn't sit well with some Tulsa County taxpayers. 

"They already voted," Anita Duane said. "Clearly passed, so I think it would be ridiculous to waste money on another election."

Duane said she voted in favor of the Vision tax and would vote the same way if a new election was held. 

Around two-thirds of county voters approved the sales tax, which covers $75 million dollars in expected sales tax revenue over 15 years. The funding will pay for roads and bridge repairs, improvements at county parks and several other county projects.

On Monday the Tulsa County clerk's office sent 2 Works For You a letter dated February 1, 2015. The county claims it sent the letter to the Tulsa World, requesting notices of the vote appear in the Tulsa World on March 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. 

The clerk's office, however, only received an invoice for the notice to run one time in the newspaper. 

County Commissioner Ron Peters said the county clerk's office recently noticed the error. 

"Called it to the attention of the Tulsa World and we met with them," Peters said. "Obviously people make mistakes."

Peters told 2 Works For You, the Tulsa World and the county could now ask a judge to weigh-in.

"And ask for a declaratory judgment that we complied substantially with the requirements of the law," Peters said. "I think any reasonable judge would see it that way. Then the issue will be put to rest."

Even though the state required amount of notices didn't run in the newspaper, the Tulsa World's publisher Bill Masterson said hopefully the results will stand. He said with several news outlets covering the election, a judge could see that voters had many opportunities to learn the specifics of the Vision vote. 

"Because of the extensive coverage, was there enough notification to make sure to satisfy a judge's opinion that the election should be upheld," Masterson said. 

On Monday, both Peters and Masterson made it clear the error is still being investigated. Neither Peters nor Masterson would say whether Tulsa County or the Tulsa World was responsible.  

If a new vote is needed, Peters said it could be added to other elections already scheduled for later this year. 

"Just printing the ballots would be the only cost, because you will have the doors open to the election facility anyway," he said. 

It is unclear as of Monday, when the legal question of the Vision vote results could be finalized. 

The legal question around the notices only impacts Tulsa County's Vision vote. It doesn't include the City of Tulsa's Vision vote also held on April 5. 

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