Oklahoma is experiencing historically high voter registration in anticipation of the November election, but it’s unclear if the numbers will translate into high turnout.   
Aside from exit polling, there’s isn’t much data readily available to determine who votes how in the state, especially not at the county level. Carter County Election Board Secretary Diane Hall said turnout for the June primary was unusually high and with five state questions and one county question on the ballot, the election board is expecting a large turnout.
“The June election was heavy, it was a great turnout,” Hall said. “The runoffs, not so much, because there was nothing local.”
Hall said the Carter County board has processed about 700 absentee ballots from college students, people who will be traveling and people who can’t access the polls for the next election, and she expects they’ll receive more until the cutoff date on October 31. Polling places will have more volunteers to keep up with the expected influx of voters.
“We’re gearing up like it’s going to be a blockbuster,” Hall said. “We’re going to try to get people out ASAP.”
Certain issues can draw crowds to the polling stations. In Carter County, 9,934 votes were cast either for or against State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana statewide. Only 9,301 votes were cast for gubernatorial candidates of all parties combined.
Currently, 30,249 people are registered to vote in Carter County. Of that number, 5,257 voters are between the ages of 18 and 29, meaning the “youth vote” accounts for 17 percent of all registered voters in the county.
According to the US Census, about 46 percent of this demographic participated in the 2016 presidential election nationwide.
Hall said Ardmore High School, Lone Grove High School, Southern Tech and UCSO among others have all held voter registration events.
Bryan Dean, a public information officer with the Oklahoma State Election Board, said right now the number of registered voters statewide sits at nearly 2.1 million, though the number won’t be final until November 1. He also said turnout for this year’s primary elections were higher than the general election turnout four years ago.
“That’s pretty good,” Dean said. “That’s the highest it’s been in quite some time, and it’s much more than we’d expect.”
Dean said four years ago voter turnout landed at about 40 percent. Inactive voters and people that haven’t voted in four years are purged from the rolls every odd-numbered year. Dean said that attributes to an ebb and flow of the number of registered voters.
“We’ve also had a tremendously high number of candidates,” Dean said.
Dean said the state doesn’t do much, if any, analysis of voter demographics. The US census’ exit polling is the only source of voter information broken down by demographic.
“We don’t do a lot of targeted things, we’re a pretty small operation,” Dean said.
The state election board has roughly 25 employees total. Many of them are in support roles to county election boards and spend their time training, answering questions and assisting with equipment. The state board also maintains voting equipment.
“County, that’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak,” Dean said.
Dean said in the last five years the state has moved to online tools like online absentee ballot requests. He said that while there’s been no concentrated effort to reach younger voters, the online push might have inadvertently done so.
“We don’t have any way of doing in-depth analysis or marketing,” Dean said. “We don’t have the budget for that. Social media has been a big thing we’ve ramped up in the last few years,” Dean said. Those are areas where young folks do a lot of their communicating.”
“The main point to make is that it’s easier than it’s ever been to vote in Oklahoma,” Dean said.