Election Board certifies special audit petition

By Suzanne Mackey

News Star Reporter

The Garvin County Election Board held a special meeting on Wednesday morning to certify signatures on a citizen petition requesting a special audit of the city of Pauls Valley. 

The petition, driven in large part by former Pauls Valley Hospital employees, was submitted to the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office on July 24. 

It is asking the auditor’s office to look into circumstances surrounding the October 2018 closure of the hospital.

According to the election board, 363 petition signatures were received from the State Auditor and Inspector. 

The board voted Wednesday to certify 280 of those signatures and disqualify 83. 

Those numbers are based on research of voter records to verify the signatures as those of voters registered in Pauls Valley, which was conducted by the county election board prior to Wednesday’s meeting. 

By state law, the signatures must be from “registered voters of the subdivision” for which the audit is being requested. 

The 280 certified signatures fall short of the 294 signatures the group circulating the petition have said they needed to secure the special audit by the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office. 

Garvin County Election Board Secretary Gayla Dean said there were a variety of reasons citizen signatures may have been disqualified. 

Either the signature could not be verified as belonging to a registered voter, the voter was not registered in the city of Pauls Valley, or the signature was a duplicate.

Signatures are verified based on where a voter is registered to vote according to the state’s voter registration records, which in some cases may differ from the voter’s current physical address. 

“We did this as was outlined to us by the state election board. We have rules we have to follow in verifying the signatures,” Dean said. “We did what the auditor asked us to do.”

Wednesday’s meeting was open to the public, as are all meetings of the county election board. 

Notice of the meeting was filed with the county clerk and posted at public access points within the courthouse as required by law. 

Dean said the board voted and signed paperwork to certify the results of the verification process, but the actual petitions were not present during the meeting.

The certified signatures now go back to the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office, which will decide if the requirements for requesting the special audit have been met.