McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 1, 2010

Decent voter turnout expected

By Trevor Brown
CNHI

OKLAHOMA CITY — A historic top-of-the-ticket race and a deluge of state questions could boost voter turnout for Election Day.

Joyce Smith, an election official in Grady County, said early in-person absentee numbers have ranged from “more moderate” to “high.” She said the steady stream of voters who submitted their ballots Friday and Monday were on pace to outnumber many recent non-presidential contests.

“I think a lot of people are interested in the governor’s race, since either way we’ll be electing a woman" for the first time in state history, said Smith, who has worked elections the past 25 years. “The state questions have sparked a lot of interest too.”

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he predicts this kind of turnout statewide. He said turnout could be similar or could slightly exceed the 1994 or 2002 races, which were the last two elections when there was an open gubernatorial seat. Voter turnout in those two years numbered just more than 50 percent of registered voters.

“We have an open seat, it is a historic election, there are a number of statewide races and many state questions have got a lot of attention generally and around the nation,” he said. “There is a lot of excitement about this elections, so I think we’ll see good turnout like 1994 or 2002.”

Chickasha resident Jacque Scott said she couldn’t remember missing voting in an election since 1949. But, she said, this election especially interested her because many of the state questions, especially SQ 744, which would require the state to increase education spending.

“There are several important issues this elections,” she said after casting her early ballot Monday. “But in general, my philosophy is just that if you don’t vote, you don’t get to gripe.”           

Come prepared

The two-sided ballot includes 11 state questions along with a lengthy number of down-ticket and local races.

Ziriax said residents should be prepared before voting and do their best to educate themselves on the issues beforehand. He suggested voters take notes, which they can bring into the ballot box.

“Just make sure you don’t share them with anyone,” he said because of rules prohibiting campaigning or influencing someone’s vote in the polling place.

Smith said most of the more than 750 early voters that Grady County saw by Monday afternoon came prepared. She said many voters did not need much help and were able to navigate the races and question fairly quickly.

She said this might not be the case on Election Day. She said many of the early voters are the most enthusiastic ones. Residents visiting their polling places on Tuesday should expect some lines as she anticipates slower voters.

Ziriax offered another piece of advice to beat the long lines: Vote in the mid-morning or early afternoon to avoid the busy lunch and after-work crowds.