The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 10, 2012

Fewer voters registered in Garfield County

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — There are fewer registered voters in Garfield County now than there were in 2008 — the last presidential election.

The numbers could change some, though, as the final day to register for the 2012 presidential election is Friday. Garfield County Election Board will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday to help those people who would register. Normal election board hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Garfield County Election Board Secretary Roy Schneider said there has been a shift from Democrat to Republican registration statewide, with independents also making some inroads.

As of Oct. 1, there are 29,203 registered voters in Garfield County. The numbers show 8,889 Democrats, 17,458 Republicans and 2,856 independents. At the same time four years ago, Garfield County showed 30,552 registered voters. Of that number, 10,397 were Democrats, 17,494 were Republicans and 2,661 were independents.

Independent registration is up 195, while the number of registered Democrats in the county fell by 1,508 from 2008 and the number of registered Republicans fell by 36.

“There has been a shift from Democrat to Republican. It is the statewide phenomenon. Plus, if you miss two general elections you are automatically taken off (registration rolls),” Schneider said.

Statewide, registration figures as of Oct. 8 showed Oklahoma with 953,133 Democrats, 877,796 Republicans, 246,485 independents and 15 Americans Elect — an overall increase in the number of registered voters. In 2008, a month before the presidential election, statewide voter numbers showed 1,012,594 Democrats, 790,712 Republicans and 219,230 independents, for a total 2,022,537.

In Oklahoma, there has been a general shifting in the number of registered Democrat voters and an increase in Republicans and independents, said Paul Ziriax, Oklahoma State Election Board secretary.

Percentagewise, the number of registered independents has grown faster than any other party, which could change the political system in the future. Independent registration is up 12.4 percent, while Republican registration is up 11 percent. Democrat registration is down 5.9 percent.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said people have become so frustrated with what they see in Washington, D.C., they believe neither party is getting the job done.

“Both parties take positions that alienate many people, and so they choose to be independent, rather than associate themselves with either party,” Anderson said.

He said he believes it will make a difference in the future because many of the independents are young voters, which could affect the future of traditional parties.

“The future of traditional parties may be in doubt unless they adapt to find more ways to bring independents into their tent,” Anderson said.

One issue independents face is they cannot vote in any elections except the general election. Anderson pointed out the Garfield County sheriff’s race this year was only done within the Republican Party, because no Democrats or independents filed for the seat.

“Independents didn’t have a choice,” he said. “Unless you have a candidate on the ballot, you can’t vote at all until the general election.”

State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, generally agreed with Anderson, but said some of the younger voters who consider themselves independent have not yet developed a political perspective. He agreed much of the increase in independent registration is a result of gridlock in Washington.

University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said some of the change among traditional parties could be as simple as a purge in voter records.

“This year Oklahoma had a substantial voter purge. That cleans up the duplicate registrations, or those who haven’t voted, those who died or left the state,” Gaddie said.

While Oklahoma may be growing, the state is not gaining many people who are interested in registering with a traditional party, relative to the people who have left the state.

“It’s part attrition and part purging of non-active voters,” Gaddie said. “It’s not rational to vote. The odds that your vote will make a difference are pretty bad. But you legitimize democracy by voting.”