Oklahoma, where the Republican presidential candidate four years ago won all 77 counties, continues to move toward a deeper shade of red.
Republicans showed a 3-1 net increase over Democrats in registered voters since Jan. 15, figures released Thursday by the state Election Board show. Even independents outpaced Democrats in the net increase of voters.
“It's been a focus of ours, certainly this year, on aggressively doing voter registration drives around the state,” Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said. “It should be cause for concern for the Democrat Party in Oklahoma. They brought a lot of it upon themselves with them supporting these policies at the national level that are just frankly completely out of step with a majority of Oklahoma voters.”
Since Jan. 15, Republicans had a net increase of 67,368 voters, while Democrats had a net increase of 21,564, records show. Independents had a net increase of 25,153. Eighteen voters registered as Americans Elect, which became a recognized political party earlier this year.
Democrats still have majority
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said he was surprised by the gain in GOP voters this year.
“We've been working very hard on that, but on the other hand it's simply reflective of the fact that the Republicans got all the statewide offices and this thing is cyclical,” he said. “When the Democrats were in control, it was the other way around. It'll take us a little while to reverse this trend.”
Democrats still have the most registered voters in the state, but have slipped to 45.6 percent of all voters. Republicans have grown to 42.4 percent of registered voters and independents have grown to 12 percent. In January, Democrats made up 47.1 percent, Republicans were 41.4 percent and independents were 11.5 percent of registered voters.
Pinnell said many of the net GOP gains likely occurred in the 2nd Congressional District in the eastern part of the state, where Republican Markwayne Mullin and Democrat Rob Wallace are involved in a hotly contested race to succeed U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who did not seek re-election.
“The 2nd District is certainly fertile ground for us,” Pinnell said. “A lot of Democrat voters down there are very conservative. … A lot of Democrat voters are just saying enough is enough. They don't see the Democrat Party is really a home for them anymore. Because the party has gone so far left, they feel it's now time for them to reregister.”
Independents outpace party
Independents even outpaced Democrats in the number of net registered voters from Jan. 15 through Oct. 12, the deadline to register for Tuesday's general election, records show.
“You see a Democrat Party that is out of step with the majority of voters in Oklahoma,” Pinnell said. “And they're out also out of step with a large number of Democrats in Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma Republicans are aware of the growing independent voters and are gearing up efforts to woo them to their ranks, he said.
“We are now targeting independent voters almost as much as conservative Democrat voters,” Pinnell said. “That's a big change. It used to be that we were focused on just conservative Democrat voters, but because of that rise in that independent voter we're identifying conservative independents and calling independent voters almost as much as Democrat voters.”
Collins said Tuesday's election won't be a shutout for Oklahoma Democrats.
“I think we've still got a few surprises for them,” he said. “We're willing to wait until Tuesday night to see what happens.”
Official pre-election voter registration statistics by the Election Board showed a surge in voter registration in advance of Tuesday's general election, state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said.
Oklahoma's voter registration rolls saw a net increase of 114,103 voters since Jan. 15, he said. Nearly 47,000 of those registered in October before the Oct. 12 deadline.
Republicans have been making gains for the past 50 years in Oklahoma. The last Democratic president to carry Oklahoma was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
In 1980, Democrats made up 75.8 percent of registered voters in the state, while Republicans numbered 22.8 percent and independents totaled 1.4 percent. In 2002, 53.7 percent of registered voters were Democrats, compared with 36.3 percent for Republicans and 10 percent for independents.
‘Active' voters are nearly even
The latest Election Board figures show that among so-called “active” registered voters, the major parties are nearing parity: 45 percent are Democrats, 44 percent are Republicans and 11 percent are independents. Inactive voters are allowed to vote and can reactivate their status by voting or initiating a change in voter registration.
As of Thursday, Oklahoma had 2,114,713 registered voters. Of those, 964,847 are Democrats, 895,625 are Republicans, 254,223 are independents and 18 are Americans Elect.
President Barack Obama failed to win any of Oklahoma's 77 counties in 2008, and figures show the state has become more Republican since then. Republican voter registration is up, and voters in 2010 elected all Republicans to the eight available statewide posts in the November general election.
The GOP gained control of the state Senate for the first time in 2008, the last year Democrats made up at least half the number of registered voters. Democrats were at 50.1 percent, and Republicans were at 39.1 percent.
Democrats went below 50 percent for the first time in 2009, when the percentage stood at 49.3 percent. Republicans had 39.4 percent, and independents were at 11.3 percent.
By 2010, when Republicans won all eight statewide positions on the ballot — giving the GOP control of the governor's office and the Legislature at the same time for the first time — Democrats made up 49 percent of the registered voters, and Republicans had 40.6 percent.