HOLDENVILLE — Todd Thomsen spent the nine days following the Nov. 7 general election trailing District 25 state House opponent Darrell Nemecek by two votes. After four votes were tossed out during a hearing Thursday by a Hughes County judge, Thomsen now holds a two-vote margin.
“Being two votes ahead, I’m looking at the race in a different perspective,” Thomsen said. “It’s just an example that every vote counts. I am so impressed with the professionalism exhibited by Brandy West and her staff at the Hughes County Election Board. I don’t think most people understand what they do, how serious they take their jobs. My position has not changed about the recount: The ballots are so close that it won’t be decided until the last vote is counted.”
Thomsen retained his slim two-vote edge after a recount of the remaining ballots in Hughes County was completed.
Thomsen, an Ada Republican, trailed Nemecek, an Ada Democrat, by two votes when the day began, but a district judge threw four Hughes County ballots cast for Nemecek out in a Hughes County hearing Thursday.
“Everything went pretty smooth Thursday,” said Brandy West, Hughes County Election Board secretary. “The four absentee ballots cast for Darrell Nemecek were thrown out. Other than that, the recount showed exactly the same as we had Nov. 7.”
After four votes were taken away from Nemecek, he led Precinct 34 in Hughes County 73-43. The precinct includes the Hughes County “side” of Allen and an area east to a roadway known locally as the “Broadway of America,” then north to State Highway 1 at Atwood.
Nemecek held a two-ballot lead after the Nov. 7 general election, but Thomsen filed for a recount with the state Election Board last week. Later, Nemecek also filed for a manual recount of the ballots cast in District 25, which includes most of Pontotoc County, and a precinct each in Hughes, McClain and Pottawatomie counties.
Thomsen had alleged voting irregularities, claiming that four Hughes County voters who cast ballots for Nemecek did not live in District 25.
Associate District Judge Gordon Allen agreed with Thomsen, ruling Thursday that the four ballots are void. Hughes County Election Board officials said four voters were mistakenly given four incorrect in-person absentee ballots. Those ballots, Allen ruled, should not have had the District 25 candidates listed.
The District 25 recount resumed at Pontotoc Technology Center in Ada this morning. Ballots will be recounted in McClain County District Court later today, and the Pottawatomie County precinct recount begins at 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Nemecek led Thomsen by two votes, 4,796-4,794, after the Nov. 7 general election, the closest state House race in Oklahoma history.
Nemecek’s attorneys, state Reps. Ben Sherrer and Ryan Kiesel, argued that voters are not required to prove residence when voting, making it impossible to know whether the four absentee ballots in question were cast by voters who are now living in District 25 despite his or her registration.
Allen’s ruling can be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but Nemecek said he will wait until the recount process is completed before he makes a decision.
Nemecek did not immediately return a phone call this morning.
While a recount will decide the House District 25 seat, nine freshman member of the state Senate and 28 newly elected members of the state House were sworn in during ceremonies at the State Capitol Thursday.
Republicans picked up two seats in the 48-member Senate to result in a 24-24 tie, with the Democratic lieutenant governor expected to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of Democrats. Republicans still control the House in Oklahoma.
Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby attended ceremonies in both houses of the state Legislature Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Three Chickasaw tribal members are now members of the state House.
“We’ve had a lot of support prior to now, but I think actually getting Indian people in government, like right now, there’s a difference, because they’re living that life,” Anoatubby told the AP.
Anoatubby said American Indians are now represented in both parties in the state Legislature.
The Associated Press reported that T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is the second black Republican to serve in the House since Oklahoma’s statehood.
Thomsen said the race will not be decided until Monday when the final precinct is recounted.
“The four ballots that were thrown out in Hughes County were simple mistakes,” Thomsen said. “I have never believed that anything underhanded had occurred. We just wanted everything to be fair. Now it’s just a matter of recounting all the votes. The result will not be known until the final one is recounted.”