A voter holds a ballot while walking past an “I voted” sign at the First Assembly of God Church in McAlester during the Aug. 26 Primary Runoff Election. Voting by an early-in person absentee ballot continues through 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Pittsburg County Election Board Office in McAlester, ahead of the Tuesday, Nov. 6, General Election, when all polling places will be open.

What a difference a four-year presidential election cycle makes.

Voter registration at the Pittsburg County Election Board was once overwhelming Democratic, but those numbers have been changing — especially over the past four years since Donald Trump became president.

In what some longtime political observers in Southeastern Oklahoma consider a remarkable development, the number of registered Republican voters in Pittsburg County is getting within passing distance of the number of registered Democrats.

And when the number of active voters — those who have actually cast ballots in recent election cycles  — are counted, active registered GOP voters have pulled ahead of their Democrat counterparts.

"It's pretty amazing," Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Tonya Barnes said in regard to all the voter registration activity.

Current Pittsburg County Election Board records show there are a total of 11,265 registered Democrats in Pittsburg County, compared to 11,105 registered Republicans, enough to leave the Democrats ahead by only a 160-voter registration margin.

However, when the number of active voters are tallied, the GOP has pulled ahead with 10,199, compared to 9,662 active voters in the Democrat's column.

That shows there are now 507 more active registered Republican voters than there are active Democrats. Total voter registration in the county also includes 4,032 Independents and 102 registered Libertarians

Some who have switched from the Democrat to the Republican party over the past year have told the News-Capital they were fed up with the national Democrat Party's treatment of President Trump, including the impeachment proceedings.

They also said they did like the way that Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his Senate conformation hearings. Senate hearings for Trump's current Supreme Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett had not started when new voter registration activity ceased prior to the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election.

Changes are even more dramatic when Pittsburg County's current political party affiliation is compared to that of four years ago

Voter registration records for October 31, 2016 — just prior to the November 2016 presidential election between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton — shows there were 15,613 registered Democrats in Pittsburg County at the time. That compared to only 7,751 registered Republic voters in 2016.

Over the past four years, the GOP has increased its total registration in the county by 3,554 voters.

Meanwhile, the Democrat's number of total registered voters fell from the 15,613 shown in 2016 to the 11,265 who are registered today — a decline of 4,348 voters compared to the same time in 2016.

Democrats aren't the only ones to see a change voter registration over the past four years.

In 2016, there were 4,089 registered Independents in Pittsburg County. Independent registration now stands at 4,032 — a decrease of 57 over the four-year period.

Libertarian Party registration has increased over the past four years, up from 18 in 2016 to 102 in 2020, with 84 more registered Libertarians added to the rolls.

The only local legislative race on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot is the race for the District 7 State Senate seat between GOP candidate Warren Hamilton and Democrat nominee Jerry Donathan, after Warren upset GOP incumbent Larry Boggs in the Republican Primary.

Changes in voting patters were underscored earlier this year, when-then Democratic Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris changed his registration to Republican, then traveled to Washington to participate in a law enforcement salute to President Trump.

That left the Pittsburg County sheriff's race to be decided by the Republican Primary, when only GOP voters could participate, since Morris' only opponent was fellow GOP candidate Bobby Cox.

District 17 and District 18 State House races were also decided by the GOP Primary, with Republican incumbents Jim Grego and David Smith reelected by registered Republican voters after the GOP candidates did not draw opponents from other parties.

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