Barnes brings experience to election secretary's office | Local News


Tonya Barnes brings a new position to the Pittsburg County Election Board – 31 years of experience.

In her new post, she is responsible for running elections in Pittsburg County.

"I'm looking forward to it, for sure," said Barnes, who previously worked as the assistant election board secretary. She feels her years of service have left her well-prepared to handle upcoming elections.

"Next year will be a busy year," Barnes said, referring to the coming year's election cycle, with primary, runoff and general elections set at the local, county, state and federal levels. They will be topped by the U.S. presidential general election set Nov. 3, 2020. Barnes feels she is the rest of the county election board team are ready.

"I had good workers behind me and good precinct officials," Barnes said.

Two of those workers include Carla Morris, promoted to serve as the new assistant secretary for the Pittsburgh County Election Board after previously serving as its clerk, and Breeann Williamson, who now fills the clerk's previously held position by Morris.

Among Barnes' duties is keeping records of the approximately 27,000 registered voters in Pittsburg County. She must also make sure the precinct voting officials are trained.

The Oklahoma State Election Board appointed Barnes to serve as the Pittsburgh County Election Board's new secretary, said State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.

Ziriax noted in a statement to the News-Capital, “Tonya previously served for many years as the secretary of the county election board.

Ziriax said, citing the applicable state statutes. "The secretary of the county board is responsible for hiring county election board staff,".

Barnes started at the Pittsburg County Election Board Office in 1988, filling a part-time position. She started as a full-time worker in 1990, serving as the election board clerk through February 2006. She was serving as the election board's assistant secretary in March 2006, at the position she held until assuming her new position as board secretary.

She has seen lots of changes during her 31 years as an election board employee.

"When I first started, we had paper ballots that were counted by hand," Barnes said. Now, of course, ballots are machine-counted to obtain election results.

When casting was an election worker, those casting ballots were not required to show identification at the polling place, as voters now are required to do.

Another change is the casting of provisional ballots. If during an election, precinct workers at a polling place can find a record for themselves, the voter is allowed to cast a ballot on a provisional basis. Following election day, the three-member Pittsburg County Board will meet and determine whether or not the provision should be included when election results are tallied.

Barnes is filling the position held by previous Pittsburg County Election board secretary by Cathy Thornton, who retired after not getting reappointed to the post.

Barnes and her husband, Keith Barnes, have been married for 30 years. They have two children, Josh and Whitney; a grandchild, Carter, and four great nephews.

A couple of smaller elections are set for later this year, prior to the flurry of election activity set in 2020.

"We are making sure they are ready to go," said Barnes.

Contact James Beaty at



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