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Independent voters on the rise nationwide

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 14, 2012

The number of voters identifying themselves as “independent” is growing nationwide. In Oklahoma? Not so much.

A Pew Research Center survey found 38 percent of adult Americans now call themselves independents. Just 32 percent identified as Democrats and 24 percent as Republicans. The trend is also seen in states such as Arizona, where a third of voters are unaffiliated.

However, in Oklahoma voters are moving to the Republican Party more than they are to independent status. Democrat numbers are declining. As of June 1, around 46 percent of Oklahoma voters were Democrats, nearly 42 percent were Republicans and 11 percent were independents.

Thirty years ago, Democrats claimed 71.4 percent of Oklahoma voters, Republicans 26.4 percent and independents a measly 2.2 percent.

Clearly, the number of Oklahoma independents has grown. But that may be a function of “motor voter” registration, where those who fail to mark any preference are listed “independent” by default.

No doubt, Oklahoma's closed primary system discourages registering as an independent. Many voters want a say in the nomination process, not just the general election. Registering as an independent can also be a transition step for former Democrats shifting gradually to the GOP.

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