At Mayor Mick Cornett’s northside headquarters on May Avenue, a map covered with colorful Post-It notes identifies areas where the potential to boost turnout for Tuesday’s election is high.
At the “Edquarters” — Councilman Ed Shadid’s downtown campaign office — a sign on the back of the door reminds volunteers to sign up for their next shift before they leave.
With just a few days to go before votes are counted in Oklahoma City’s mayoral race, candidates were focused intently on engaging their voters and getting them to the polls.
Seeking to become Oklahoma City’s first four-term mayor, Cornett has worked hard to reach voters in an arc around the city’s suburban fringe, primarily from the north side, around the west into Canadian County to the south side.
That’s where research — represented by the Post-Its — tells a story of residents who vote in strong numbers in national elections but show much less interest in Oklahoma City’s municipal elections.
Shadid, the first-term councilman from Ward 2 who is challenging Cornett, has pursued a strategy reliant on volunteers to spread a message through city neighborhoods that a diverse array of residents should have a say in how the city is governed.
Republican State Sen. David Holt, Cornett’s campaign manager and his former chief of staff, said the campaign staff compared voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election to turnout in the city’s 2009 MAPS 3 election, when voters approved extending a 1-cent sales tax to finance civic improvements.
Studying select precincts, the staff found there’s a tendency among voters who live in suburban school districts to vote infrequently in Oklahoma City elections — despite the fact that they live in the city and rely on the city for utility services.
It’s important, Holt said, that those residents “understand fully that they live in Oklahoma City and can vote in this election.”
Holt offers the example of a precinct north of the Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma County, where he says turnout for the MAPS 3 election was 36 percent of the turnout in the 2012 presidential election. In a precinct in Heritage Hills, just north of downtown, he said the figure was 63 percent.
The mayor wants to encourage residents north of the Kilpatrick Turnpike, west of County Line Road, east of Tinker Air Force Base and south of Interstate 240 to realize they are part of the city. They work in the city and live in the city, and the quality of city services is determined by how well the economy is doing, Holt said.
“Mick Cornett wants to make sure that they feel they are part of Oklahoma City,” he said.
Shadid says his campaign’s door-knocking and calling efforts have been spread across the city’s 620 square miles.
“We are engaging all eight wards,” Shadid said.
Shadid said he has attended a different church, synagogue, mosque or temple every weekend since last summer. He estimated that he’s met with 50 neighborhood associations.
He has attended two mayoral forums, one sponsored by Fairview Missionary Baptist Church and another sponsored by 16 neighborhood associations. Cornett declined to participate in those events, citing what he said was the negative tone of campaigns by Shadid and two others, Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson, in the four-way race.
“That’s where my time is being spent, in these mayoral forums and neighborhood associations,” Shadid said. ‘‘I think when you answer questions in real time, it’s a more accurate and honest assessment of a candidate, and of the facts.”
Neither campaign would discuss last-minute strategies for getting their voters to the polls, but mailings to potential voters, including one to residents with Yukon addresses, gave some clues.
Shadid emphasized in his mailer his belief that diversity “is one of our greatest strengths. It enriches our community. It makes us better.”
In a mailer with “Stick with Mick!” in bold type, Cornett’s campaign cited the city’s record over his decade in office for low unemployment, high income growth, city street improvements, funding for new police positions, MAPS for Kids’ revitalization of schools, and the arrival of the NBA.