Voter registration spike in RoCo

The interest in the Nov. 3 elections has produced thousands of new Rogers County voters, including some who were getting registered just minutes before Friday's midnight deadline.

The upcoming elections will include a vote for president, but there are several other races in the state, including a U.S. Senate seat, various legislative offices and two state questions. The Rogers County Election Board extended its hours Friday until midnight, when voter registration for the November elections ended.

"I think we had like 10 people come in after 11," said Rogers County Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody. "It was a great thing to do for people who hadn't been able to come in… It's a great opportunity for those people who don't have the regular 9-to-5 jobs anymore. I want to make sure my people in Rogers County can cast their ballots."

Dermody said the board has received a wave of registrations and will be finished processing them this week.

"We've just been bombarded," Dermody said. "Since Sept. 1, we've got more than 3,000 in. And that doesn't count Friday."

Dermody estimated that Friday alone accounted for about 800-1,000 registrations, a total that is several hundred more than the typical amount for the final day of registration.

"We've had a lot of people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s registering for the very first time," Dermody said.

When asked what has driven the increase in registration, Dermody said she was getting "common answers, but I'm not going to repeat them, because it would be partisan." She said she didn't believe the registration growth was related as much to the COVID-19 pandemic as it was to "other things going on in the news."

Among the new voters, Dermody estimated that about 60% were registering as Republican. She said most of the remaining 40% of new registered voters were split about evenly between Democrats and Independents. Libertarians accounted for a small percentage, though she noted the party has been growing in the county. State records show that Libertarians have gone from 57 in 2016 to more than 200 today.

In January, Rogers County had 54,813 registered voters, according to state records. By Sept. 1, that number had risen to 57,178. When all the registrations from September and early October are included in the total, it could surpass 60,000 -- growth of more than 10% for the year.

At the start of 2020 in Rogers County, there were 33,084 registered Republicans, or about 60% of total registered voters. There were 14,073 Democrats (26%), 7,434 Independents (14%) and 222 Libertarians (less than 1%).

In January, there were nearly 2.1 million registered voters statewide. Republicans accounted for 48%, Democrats for 35%, Independents 16% and Libertarians less than 1%.

The rise in registered voters has been accompanied by an increase in absentee ballot requests. The most absentee ballots the county election board has sent previously was about 3,200, Dermody said. So far, it has sent more than 6,000 absentee ballots for this election; and that total might eclipse 10,000 as requests continue to arrive in the next two weeks, she said.

With absentee ballots going out, voter registrations coming in and construction on election board offices in progress, "it's been challenging," Dermody said, adding that she had to hire someone new and there's been overtime for the staff.

But, she said, "everybody helps everybody out. We all pick up the challenges where we need it most."

To request an absentee ballot, registered voters can go online to okvoterportal.okelections.us, where the site will ask for a voter’s name and birthdate to begin the process. Ballots also may be requested by email (RogersCounty@elections.ok.gov), by mail or in person at the county election board, 415 W. 1st St. in Claremore.

Absentee ballot forms are available but aren't required to get a ballot. Request by mail must include the following information:

• Your name

• Your birthdate

• The address at which you are registered to vote

• The election or elections for which you are requesting ballots

• The address to which the ballots should be mailed

• Your signature

All requests for ballots must be received at the county election board by 5 p.m., Oct. 27.

For more information, call the election board at 918-341-2965.

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