On the day of the primary runoff, precinct official Susan Warren brought her knitting to work at Cleveland County voter precinct 81 on the east side of Norman.
She and husband, John Warren, along with Sally Church, started work on Election Day at 6:20 a.m. By 3:45 p.m., Susan's knitting was progressing, Sally had solved several Sudoku puzzles, and John was cleaning out his cell phone's email account.
They had served 39 Democratic voters in the nearly nine hours the polls had been open — there were no Republican runoff ballots in that precinct.
In Cleveland County, only 8 percent of eligible Democrats voted in the primary runoff, even though the hotly contested superintendent of public instruction race was on the ballot.
Statewide, about 95,991 voters — not quite 11 percent of approximately 885,600 registered Democrats — cast ballots in the state superintendent’s race.
Also on the ballot, Democrats were choosing a nominee for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s open seat. In Cleveland County, even fewer voters — 4,204 — marked a ballot in that race, where Connie Johnson defeated Jim Rogers.
Have Democrats become apathetic in this reddest of red states?
“That was the feeling in years past,” Democratic Chair Wallace Collins said. “I don’t think that’s the feeling this year. I think Democrats are energized.”
Collins said summer vacation may have inhibited voters who are already less likely to vote in a primary runoff.
“Typically, the runoff is slower than other races,” said Bryant Rains, Cleveland County Election Board secretary.
John Cox won the Democratic bid for state school superintendent, but in Cleveland County Freda Deskin carried the vote with 57 percent.
Cox will face Republican Joy Hofmeister in November.
Hofmeister defeated incumbent Janet Barresi, whose policies have drawn strong criticism during her term, taking the election with 58 percent of the vote and avoiding the runoff Democratic candidates faced.
Barresi is so unpopular that she finished third in the June primary, following behind Brian Kelly, a former Edmond football coach who some said lacked any real visibility on the campaign trail.
Despite Hofmeister’s resounding success in the Republican primary, and the state level of success by her party to put candidates in office, the road to ultimate victory is full of twists and turns.
Hofmeister is currently under investigation in conjunction with former lobbyist Chad Alexander for possible campaign violations. The shadow over Hofmeister could mean a better chance to get a blue candidate elected — if voters turn out.
“While there was a low turnout (for the primary runoff), I don’t see that as a downside for the party,” Collins said. “People are dissatisfied with (Gov.) Mary Fallin. Her approval rating is about 45 percent.”
Some possible ballot initiatives like medical marijuana and school safe rooms could drive voter interest, he said.
“Those people will probably vote Democratic if they show up to vote,” he said.
While Collins believes Joe Dorman is gaining ground on Fallin in the governor’s race, he also feels good about the state school superintendent race.
“We certainly think John Cox has an excellent chance to beat Joy Hofmeister,” Collins said. “He’s from rural Oklahoma, and he has a lot of support. The only two counties he lost were Oklahoma and Cleveland counties.”
Collins said he believes Cox is the most qualified candidate for the job.
“He’s a Ph.d.,” Collins said. “Hofmeister is not.”
Oklahomans who have not yet registered have until 5 p.m. Oct. 10 to register in time to vote in November’s General Election.
Now that the primary elections are over, voter party affiliation changes are allowed again, though voters of any party can vote for any candidate in the General Election.
“The largest increases are always in the Independents,” Deputy Election Board Secretary Anette Pretty said of recent party changes.
The Election Board certified the election Friday after the Aug. 24 vote. At that time, election officials include the provisional ballots that have been verified as cast by eligible voters.
Pretty said five votes were added to the unofficial totals and had no effect on the outcome of any race.
In 25 precincts, District 3 Republican voters selected a candidate for Cleveland County commissioner.
Rains said 13 percent of eligible Republicans voted in that race. Dr. Harold Haralson defeated Mike Reynolds and will face off against Democrat, Cal Hobson in November.
But Hobson is facing multiple DUI charges so the runoff primary may have been the key race for selecting the next county commissioner.
Oklahoma has increased voting options in recent years. To vote absentee, people can sign up each calendar year and automatically get a ballot in the mail. Early voting locations have expanded, making it easier for voters who can’t vote on Election Day.
In Oklahoma, no reason for absentee voting — voting by mail or early — is required.
The new satellite location at the Moore Norman Technology Center’s South Penn campus allowed easier access for some early voters.
“It was a great success,” Rains said.
Between one-fourth and one-third of Cleveland County’s early voters cast ballots at the South Penn location.
“The voters up there are so appreciative,” Pretty said.
Rains retired from his position with the Oklahoma County Election Board office with just under 24 years on the job, shortly before being appointed as Cleveland County Election Board secretary about seven months ago.
Pretty has been with the Cleveland County Election Board office full-time since 1999.
Technology is the biggest change either employee has seen. Other changes include a federal law that allows voters to cast provisional ballots.
“What the provisional ballot does is give everybody the opportunity to vote,” Rains said.
Those ballots are researched to see if the voter is eligible. The most common issue is that people show up without an acceptable ID.
The county election board is also now on Twitter and Facebook.
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