The US Census Bureau has released demographic data for the 2012 Federal Election. The numbers don’t speak well of Oklahoma. Of all 50 states and DC, Oklahoma ranks 49th in voter turnout of eligible voters. Only Hawaii and West Virginia had lower turnout rates.
From the Tulsa World report, here are the most interesting Oklahoma statistics:
The 52.4 percent 2012 voting rate in Oklahoma beat only Hawaii and West Virginia and was 6.3 percent worse than in the 2008 presidential election.
In Oklahoma, voting rates among age groups declined in all categories with the exception of 65- to 74-year-olds compared to 2008.
Oklahoma voters in the 65 to 74 age group increased 68.1 percent to 80.7 percent.
About one in four, or 27 percent, of Oklahomans age 18 to 24 cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
About 41 percent of those aged 18 to 24 cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election.
Oklahoma ranks 42nd among states in the percentage of eligible voters who are registered, with 66.1 percent on the rolls.
The report also found a decline in the percentage of eligible Oklahomans who were registered to vote since 2008.
The percent of the citizenry that were registered to vote declined from 70.1 percent in 2008 to 66.1 percent in 2012.
These are some serious declines. While members of the Democratic Party and Democratic organizations blamed voter ID laws, gerrymandering and long ballots for the decline, we here at Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform have some different ideas.
For starters, a lot of voters may not have felt that they had a dog in the race so to speak. Between 2008 and 2012, Oklahoma voters saw an increased number of unchallenged House and Senate Seats. These elections were either completely unchallenged at filing or were settled in the Primary elections. The 2012 election saw fewer than 50% of all eligible Legislative seats reach the November Election.That is fewer than 50% of voters presented with a choice in who represents them in the State government.
Next was the lack of voter choice in the Presidential election. For the 3rd Presidential election in a row, Oklahoma voters were the only voters in the US limited to two candidates for President. All other states had an average of 8 candidates in the election with 4 candidates being the next lowest above Oklahoma. Additionally, the margin of victory for Republican Presidential Candidates versus Democratic Candidates has been steadily growing with the 2012 election seeing a 67 to 33 percent victory for the Republican Candidate in 2012.
These issues have left many Oklahomans with little faith in their impact on the elections. If you cannot vote in a state level election and your candidate of choice for the Presidential election either isn’t on the ballot of has little to no chance of winning, why vote? That is a potential mindset for the voter who voted in 2008 but not in 2012.
One would hope that the State Legislature would look at this evidence and come to the conclusion that the protectionist election laws currently on the books are a failed policy and need to change. With fewer young people engaged in the election process, what does that mean for the future of the state and nation?
Update: The Tulsa World has followed up on its original posting with an Editorial stating:
We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, just over half the eligible voting public in Oklahoma bothered to go to the polls to vote in the 2012 presidential election.
That 52.4 percent who voted garnered the state the nation’s third worst ranking for voter turnout in that election. Only Hawaii and West Virginia had lower turnouts.
The Oklahoma turnout for 2012 was 6.3 percent worse than the 2008 election turnout.
It’s usually easy to find a convenient excuse for not engaging in an important activity such as voting. But the simple, awful truth is most nonvoters just couldn’t be bothered to go to the polls. It’s a voter’s duty to figure out when and where to vote and what’s on the ballot. In a democracy, the citizenry has a job too.
Unfortunately, the Tulsa World has still failed to recognized the true cause this decrease as we have highlighted above.