Voter Turnout About As Expected Across Oklahoma

Tuesday, November 7th 2006, 5:52 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With what Oklahoma's top election official calls one of the nation's most "stable" election systems, few problems are anticipated for state voters as they cast their ballots Tuesday in state and federal races.

Mike Clingman, the secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, said projections are that about 45 percent of the state's 2.1 million voters will go to the polls Tuesday. He said that's a typical number for an election with no U.S. Senate seat at stake and an incumbent governor on the ballot.

Gene Pace, the Tulsa County Election Board secretary, said the lack of social issues on the ballot, such as the 2002 anti-cockfighting initiative, might keep some voters at home.

Polling places opened at 7 a.m. CST, and Clingman said the only problems he'd heard of were those of people looking for polling places that had been moved from previous elections.

"We have the usual logistical problems," he said. "We do the best we can to work through them, but we have a very stable system. We're probably the only state in the country that has had every person in the state vote using the same system for the last 15 years."

Oklahoma uses optical scan counting devices in each precinct in the state's 77 counties.

"Everybody is used to this system," Clingman said.

Polling places are scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

Topping the Oklahoma ballot is the governor's race between U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, the Republican challenger, and incumbent Democrat Brad Henry.

Henry upset heavily favored U.S. Rep. -- and former football star -- Steve Largent four years ago. This time, Henry is the favorite, as polls consistently have shown him with a commanding lead over Istook, a seven-term congressman from Warr Acres.

Bryan Smith, 46, a registered Democrat from Oklahoma City, said he voted for Henry because he thinks Henry's done a good job as governor and said the major issues affecting his vote were jobs and the economy.

Lynn Kaellert, the principal at an Oklahoma City elementary school, voted for Henry because of what she said was his strong support of public education and his bipartisanship.

"I just think he's been an incredible leader," Kaellert said. "As an educator that's a big issue with me."

Patty Lane, 47, a registered Republican from Edmond, voted for Istook.

"I just think everybody wants to go for Henry because he has put money in their pocket," Lane said. "But there's more to our state than just low taxes and putting money in our pockets. I think we need to look out for illegal immigration. We need to look out for pro-life and I think Istook is for that."

Another Republican, 71-year-old Enoch McBroom Jr. of Edmond, said he voted for Istook -- with hopes his Washington ties would result in more federal money being directed toward Oklahoma -- but that he had few complaints with Henry.

"Henry's been pretty clean, it seems like," McBroom said. "And I don't knock Henry. Henry's done pretty good. But I think it could be better."

Smith, Lane and McBroom voted in a Republican-leaning precinct in northeast Oklahoma City.

In the 5th Congressional District contest to succeed Istook, three-term Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin was favored over Democrat David Hunter, a doctor and former chief of the medical staff at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma's four incumbent U.S. House members -- three Republicans and one Democrat -- were expected to win easily against underfunded opponents.

"We want to send a message (that) we want to keep the conservatives in office," said Lyndia Farrell of Tulsa.

But not all voters were as satisfied with things as they are.

"Things are kind of bad right now," said Diana Wooten, 42, of Tulsa. "Everybody feels that we just need to change things, change the status quo."

Close contests were expected for lieutenant governor and other statewide offices. Democratic House Leader Jari Askins of Duncan was matched against House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, in the race for the No. 2 executive post in state government.

Another big question to be answered on Tuesday was which party will control the Senate, where Democrats now have a 26-22 advantage. Republicans are expected to retain control of the House, where they have a 13-vote majority.

John Dyer of Oklahoma City, a biologist with the state highway department, said he was disappointed with the negative tone of some of this year's political races.

"It's always disheartening to see it," Dyer said. "You have to get over it and look at the broader issues."