Analysis: Oklahoma’s partisan trends shifting, registration deadline nears

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 04-Oct-2010

Based on voter registration data in Oklahoma, it seems likely the steady advance of Republicans to a dominant position in the state Legislature will continue and possibly solidify as a result of the 2010 election. With Election Day four weeks away – and early voting beginning the week before that — the possibility of a major shift in statewide races below the federal level is now the subject of widespread discussion.

If such a shift occurs, it could mean the 11 elected statewide offices in Oklahoma will, after November 2, mirror or even exceed the Republican share of the Legislature. Presently, members of the Grand Old Party hold only three of the 11 elective statewide non-federal positions. Nine of those posts will be decided November 2. 

To some extent, all discussion about a likely shift in statewide Republican office numbers arises based simply on raw registration numbers.

However, perhaps of equal significance is the fact that qualified voters choosing to register as Independents now constitute one-tenth of the Oklahoma electorate. In 1980, Independents made up barely more than one percent of those registered.

Regardless of which party or non-party is “up” or which is “down,” the last day of voter registration for this election is looming. To participate in the November 2 balloting, the deadline is the close of business this Friday (October 8).

Registration applications can be downloaded at the State Election Board website: Applications are also available, state officials say, “at County Election Board offices, post offices, public libraries, military recruiting offices, and most social welfare agencies.”

According to state law, a person desiring to register must be at least 18 years old on or before Election Day, a U.S. citizen, and “a legal resident of the State of Oklahoma.”

Last January, state Election Board Chairman Paul Ziriax released the state’s annual voter registration report. At that point, he found there were 813,158 registered Republicans in Oklahoma, 39.9% of all voters in the state. There were 999,855 Democrats (49% of all voters) – the first time in modern history the number of registered Democrats had fallen below 1 million, and the first time ever the party of Jefferson had dropped below 50% of all registered voters.

Ziriax updated registration data on September 15, reporting the number of registered Democrats had dropped to 998,130 (48.4% of all voters) compared to a Republican increase to 831,706 registrants (40.3%). 

Including Independents, here are this year’s two registration snapshots:

Voter Registration Statistics as of September 15, 2010:

Party                9/15/2010        
=======          =======        

Democrat          998,139             (48.4%)

Republican        831,706             (40.3%)

Independent      233,768             (11.3%)

TOTAL              2,063,613        

Official Voter Registration Statistics on January 15, 2010:

Party                1/15/2010
=======          =======                                

Democrat          999,855             (49.0%)

Republican        813,158             (39.9%)           

Independent      225,607             (11.1%)

TOTAL              2,038,620        

Ziriax found the number of registered voters had increased by 24,993 between January 15 and September 15. While the number of Republicans jumped by 18,548 and the number of independents had risen by 8,161, Democratic party registration had decreased by 1,716.

Providing a snapshot of the change over a period of three decades, Ziriax pointed out, “In 1980, Democrats were 75.8% of registered voters in Oklahoma, Republicans were 22.8%, and Independents were 1.4%.”

For purposes of comparison, here are the registration numbers year-by-year since 1996, taken from the state Election Board’s website. In years where the numbers in this chart do not “add up” perfectly, it is due to the presence of Libertarian or Reform party memberships when they had formal party status.

Year              Democrat                Republican        Independent      Total

1996             1,112,560                 624,240            86,948           1,823,748

1997             1,171,620                 693,076          122,139           1,986,982

1998             1,158,754                 691,942          139,626            1,990,591

1999             1,183,523                 718,534          157,760            2,059,817

2000             1,189,332                  734,382          174,649           2,098,750

2001             1,233,481                  803,908          202,266           2,240,681

2002             1,079,298                  729,393          199,164           2,008,036

2003             1,099,458                  758,275          214,887           2,072,935

2004             1,022,442                  720,121          195,334           1,938,377

2005             1,100,263                  822,131          227,163           2,149,557

2006             1,021,053                  778,405          209,515           2,008,973

2007             1,045,490                  805,607          224,464           2,075,561    

2008             1,012,594                  790,713          219,230           2,022,537

2009             1,077,616                  860,378          246,002           2,183,996

2010                999,855                   813,158           225,607          2,038,620

2010(Sept/)     998,139                   831,706           233,768          2,063,613

(Background: On January 15 of each year, the State Election Board reports the official voter registration statistics for the State of Oklahoma. For more information, view the official Voter Registration Reports here: