Oklahoma voter turnout sets record in presidential race

Wednesday, November 3rd 2004, 11:44 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahomans turned out in record numbers for Tuesday's presidential election, according to the state Election Board.

A total of 1,463,875 voters cast ballots in Oklahoma's general election _ more than in any previous election in the state's 97-year history, Election Board Secretary Mike Clingman said Wednesday.

A total of 68.3 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots for either President Bush or Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Clingman said.

``It's easily a record,'' Clingman said. Turnout was 72,000 votes higher than the previous record for a presidential election set in 1992, when Democrat Bill Clinton of Arkansas defeated Bush's father, President George Herbert Walker Bush.

It was also greater than the 1,035,620 votes cast in the 2002 gubernatorial election, a record for a governor's race, Clingman said. Democrat Brad Henry defeated Republican Steve Largent and independent Gary Richardson to win a four-year term as governor.

``I think that the civic-minded Oklahomans who recognize the importance of the right to vote have exercised it two times in a row,'' Clingman said.

Strong feelings about the presidential race as well as a nationally watched Senate race and statewide referendums on a statewide lottery to benefit education, tribal gaming, tobacco taxes and gay marriage brought record numbers of voters to the polls, Clingman said.

Although polls officially closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, polling places in Payne, Pottawatomie and other counties accepted ballots as late as 8:30 p.m. to accommodate long lines of voters, Clingman said.

The last votes were counted shortly before 2 a.m., he said. A total of 2,603 provisionals ballots that were cast in the presidential race still must be investigated and counted, he said.

In spite of the record turnout, election workers who staffed polling places across the state encountered relatively few problems with voters or the state's optical scan voting system, Clingman said.

``It worked exactly like it should. We really encountered very few problems,'' Clingman said.

``Not only do we have a record turnout in a presidential race...it just went better than you could ever expect,'' he said. ``It's a tribute to the 7,000 people who come together on election day to make this work.''