McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 11, 2014

Democrat or Republican? Deadline set to change party affiliation

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Voters in Pittsburg County and the rest of Oklahoma who want to change their political party affiliation prior to the upcoming statewide primary and runoff elections have until the end of this month to do so.

Oklahomans who want to vote to elect the nominee of a particular political party in the primary or primary runoff elections later this year should make sure they’re registered in that party no later than Monday, March 31, according to Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Cathy Thornton.

Once the March 31 deadline hits, voters won’t get another chance to change their political affiliation for five months. State prohibits changing political affiliation  during the period beginning April 1 and continuing through August 31 in even-numbered years, Thornton said.

This year’s Primary Election in Oklahoma is set for June 24, with the Runoff Election  to be held Aug. 26 and the General Election set for Nov. 4.

Only those who are registered members of a political party can vote in the primary or runoff elections in the county, state and federal elections in Oklahoma, Thornton noted.

“Sometimes people register as an Independent and think they can vote in any election,” Thornton said. They’re wrong.

In Oklahoma, Independents can only vote in the General Election or in non-partisan elections, such as bond elections or elections such as those held by the city of McAlester, where candidates do not declare a political affiliation.

Voters are only able to cross party lines during a general election, or in a non-partisan election, such as in the city of McAlester elections or bond elections.

Thornton said she’s had people ask about changing their party affiliation prior to a primary or runoff election.

“Sometimes, they change their registration in order to be able to vote in a primary,” Thornton said.

In Oklahoma, only voters registered in a political party can vote to select that party’s nominees, Thornton said.

However, during the November General Election, all registered voters, regardless of political affiliation, can vote for any candidate on the ballot, as well as and for state or local questions, according to Thornton.

Oklahoma currently has two recognized political parties, the Democrat Party and the Republican Party, Thornton noted.

Political parties can nominate one candidate for each office for the November General Election. If two or more candidates from the same party file for one office, the party nominee is selected at either the Primary or Runoff Primary Election, Thornton noted.

In the past, some Pittsburg County voters have apparently made the registration change in time for primary and   runoff elections —usually before primary elections in which only Democrats were running.

Following the primary and runoff elections, voters will have another opportunity to change back to their original party registration prior to the General Election.

Prior to the 2012 Primary Election, Pittsburg County had 18,181 registered Democrats; 5,502 Republicans and 2,858 Independents, for a total of 26,541 registered voters, according to Thornton.

However, prior to the deadline to change registrations in advance of the 2012 Primary Election, those numbers changed.

By the end of April 2012, there were 18, 223 registered Democrats; 5,516 Republicans and 2,881 Independents, for a total of 26,620 registered voters.

During the last monthly report on Feb. 28 of this year, Pittsburg County had 16,786 registered Democrats; 5,716 registered Republicans and 2,969 Independents, for a total of 25,471 registered voters, according to Pittsburg County Assistant Election Board Secretary Tonya Barnes.

Voter registration applications as well as applications to change political affiliation are available at the Pittsburg County Election Board office, 109 E. Carl Albert Parkway, Room 101. Voter applications are also available at post offices, public libraries, state offices providing public assistance and at most political party and candidate campaign offices.

Anyone needing more information can contact the Pittsburg County Election Board Office at 918-423-3877.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.