It wasn’t long ago that to be involved in a meaningful way in Oklahoma politics, office seekers had to have a “D” after their names. But in just a few years, that has turned around so that an “R” is now necessary to have a significant influence in state politics.
That change was not as sudden as it seems, according to political consultant Pat McFerron,“To me the question isn’t, ‘Why we’re so Republican now? It’s why were we so Democrat before?’”
McFerron was one of the panel members during the Summer Policy Institute sponsored by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. He was joined by University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie and former Democratic state lawmaker and Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Ryan Kiesel.
Election officials say the number of independent voters has outpaced Republicans and Democrats in new voter registrations this year.
In March, Election Board officials removed about 145,000 inactive voters from the rolls. According to the Tulsa World, independents have added 4,582 new voters since then.
Republicans have added 1,544 new voters, while Democrats have decreased by 3,306.
There are different theories about the surge in independent voters. Some say the increase is attributed to voter frustration with the two major parties. State Republican Party Chairman David Weston says the increase likely comes from conservative Democrats who feel disenfranchised.
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins says he wasn't certain about the reason, but noted that independent voters are unable to vote in primary elections under the state's closed primary system.
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