Oklahoma election officials are bracing for a heavy turnout of voters at the polls Tuesday.
“Every four years a presidential election is the election that has by far the heaviest turnout, and I think it will be the same this time,” state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. “This will be the heaviest turnout we've seen in an election in Oklahoma since the 2008 election.
“Now whether it matches that turnout or exceeds it or comes short, I don't think we can know that yet,” he said.
Oklahomans in 2008 fell about 1,100 votes shy of breaking the state's record presidential vote that occurred in 2004. State voters cast 1,462,661 votes for president in 2008, or 1,097 fewer than in the 2004 presidential election when 1,463,758 Oklahomans voted.
About 67 percent of the registered voters turned out to cast ballots in the 2008 election.
The Republican presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John McCain, received 65.6 percent of the votes. President Barack Obama failed to win any of Oklahoma's 77 counties. Obama this year faces Republican Mitt Romney, who finished second in Oklahoma's presidential preferential primary.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
No statewide races
This year's turnout could be lower because Oklahoma has no statewide races on the ballot.
Voters are being asked to decide six state questions and whether to retain several appellate court judges and Supreme Court justices.
But a heated race in the 2nd Congressional District is generating some excitement, along with a competitive battle in the 1st Congressional District, and some close legislative and county races.
The weather shouldn't be a deterrent — the forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of about 70 degrees.
“I think that we'll have a good turnout in Oklahoma, but I don't think we're going to have a record turnout,” said Ben Odom, a former state Democratic Party official. “We don't have a U.S. Senate race; we don't have a governor's race. We have two competitive congressional districts, both in eastern Oklahoma, but if you're west of the interstate (35) there's not a competitive congressional race either.”
Pat McFerron, director of survey research for Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates, said he expects a big turnout of voters.
“The national race being so close, even though our votes here don't affect the presidential, it makes us to be a part of it,” he said. “I think it will be a very high turnout.”
Sheryl Lovelady, a former Democratic Party consultant, said she is hoping for a good turnout.
“I don't sense a lot of intensity on either the Democratic or Republican side for the presidential nominees,” she said. “If turnout is high in Oklahoma, I suspect it will be because the local races will turn them out, which is not typical of presidential races.
“Typically when you have the higher turnout, it's because of that race. But because we're a low information state — neither campaign spends money here on television or other advertisements — and just the lack of enthusiasm for both candidates ... I don't see that driving the high turnout here,” Lovelady said.
Neva Hill, a political consultant who has mostly Republican clients, said she expects a good presidential year turnout of voters in Oklahoma.
“You have that extra group of folks that don't come out in midyear elections, but they will come out because they do want to express their vote starting with president and then move on down the ticket,” she said.