My editors and I hoped to try out a new video camera so easy, even a reporter can use it. The assignment: A manual recount of the Blaine County sheriff’s primary election, which ended in a tie.
This was a story made for video: Boxes of sealed ballots being carted into the courtroom, a tally board showing updates as each precinct is counted by hand, an election official explaining the rules of the recount process.
Unfortunately, my words will have to suffice, at least for the recount itself. Special Judge Paul Woodward prohibited cameras of any kind in the courtroom where the recount was conducted. He wouldn’t even allow a camera on the courthouse’s second floor, saying he didn’t want it to interfere with the recount.
Woodward was unswayed by arguments that cameras would provide Oklahomans a view into a rarely needed aspect of the electoral process.
His directive prompted a TV reporter to quip, “We have footage from the Florida recount that determined the president of the United States, but we can’t get it of a recount for Blaine County sheriff?”
Oklahoma judges have differing opinions on whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom. Almost without exception, the judge’s discretion involves a high-profile criminal trial. Typically when a judge declines to allow cameras, the reason given is courthouse security. But whose security was at stake in this case matter administered by the election board?
To his credit, the judge allowed cameras in the courtroom for the drawing to pick the winner after the recount ended.
By Tony Thornton, The Oklahoman