The Duncan Banner

January 12, 2014

Republicans finally may overtake Democrats in voter registration

Steve Olafson
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Oklahoma may officially become a Republican majority state this week when new voter registration numbers are released.

While it has a reputation as “the reddest of the red” conservative states, more Oklahoma voters always have registered themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans.

Republicans trail registered Democrats in the state by almost 32,000,  but Steve Fair, a Republican activist from Duncan who serves as one of three party committeeman for the state, predicted the tide will officially turn on Wednesday, when the new voter registration numbers are released in Oklahoma City, the state capital.

“It’s been trending that way,” he said.

Trav Robertson, executive director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, conceded Republicans are gaining.

“If the Republicans catch up in registration, it will be because Democrats have done a poor job of communicating their program,” Robertson said.

He also complained the Republican-controlled Legislature has changed voting registration procedures to keep his party’s traditional constituents out of the voting booth.

Republians dispute that and say the Democratic Party simply became too liberal for conservative Oklahoma.

Statewide, 28 of 77 counties have more registered Republicans than Democrats,  including the state’s most populous counties — Oklahoma and Tulsa.

Stephens County and 48 other counies have remained in the Democratic column, some by large percentages, others by narrow margins.

The most recent numbers for Stephens County show 12,328 registered Democratics, 9,975 Republicans and  2,390 independents.

While a Gallup Poll shows more Republicans than Democrats are choosing to identify themselves as independents, local political observers don’t believe it’s of much relevance to Oklahoma.

The poll, based on 18,000 telephone interviews, said 42 percent of Americans now identify themselves as independents, the highest number since Gallup began telephone polls 25 years ago. Republican identification fell to 25 percent while Democratic identification was at 31 percent, down from the 38 percent that was recorded in 2008, when President Obama took office, Gallup reported.

No one in Stephens County seems surprised by the Gallup Poll showing dissatisfaction with the major parties.

“People are basically tired of being categorized as either ultra liberal or ultra conservative,” said Kenneth Wells, publicity chairman for local Democrats.

State Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, agrees there’s widespread dissatisfaction with the national parties, but believes Republicans “are on the precipice” of overtaking registered Democrats statewide, including Stephens County.

Johnson was elected in 2006 after incumbent Democrat Jari Askins left office due to term limits. Askins was then elected lieutenant governor but lost the governor’s race to Mary Fallin in 2010, when Republican momentum across the state increased.

“Republicans are making inroads,” Johnson said, noting that Stephens County, where Democrats traditionally dominated the political landscape, recently favored Republicans over Democrats for sheriff, district attorney and one county commissioner post.