Updated 12:37 a.m.
A record number of Oklahomans voted this year. More than 1.5 million Oklahomans cast ballots during the 2020 general election, beating 2016's number of about 1.4 million. Oklahoma also saw about an 175% increase in mail and absentee voting compared to 2016.
BICE TAKES BACK CD5 FOR REPUBLICANS
Oklahoma will now be represented solely by the Republican party in both the U.S. House and Senate.
For most of the night, the race between Oklahoma Democratic Incumbent Congresswoman Kendra Horn and Republican state Senator Stephanie Bice remained close. But as soon as Bice pulled ahead of Horn later in the night, she held it with a nearly 13,000 vote gap. Bice won with 52 percent of the vote to Horn's nearly 48 percent.
In 2018, Horn surprisingly defeated incumbent Republican Steve Russell by a thin margin. A Democrat had previously not held the seat since 1975 or any congressional seat since 2013.
TRUMP WINS OKLAHOMA, REPUBLICANS SWEEP FEDERAL RACES
Oklahoma's seven electoral college votes will go to President Donald Trump. Oklahoma hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Other races for federal lawmakers also broke for Republican incumbents:
- Incumbent U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe defeated Democratic challenger Abby Broyles by 467,000 votes to win his sixth term in office.
- Kevin Hern held onto his seat in Congressional District 1 over Democrat Kojo Asamoa-Caesar for his second term.
- Markwayne Mullin handily held onto his Congressional District 2 seat for his fifth term. Mullin has promised in 2012 to only serve three terms. He later reversed that decision, calling it ill-advised.
- Frank Lucas won another term in Congressional District 3. He has been in Congress since 1992.
- Tom Cole secured another term in Congressional District 4, a seat he's held since 2002.
VOTERS SAY NO TO BOTH STATE QUESTIONS
Both state questions were defeated by Oklahoma voters.
State Question 805 failed in a landslide. More than a 20 percent gap separated the ‘yes’ votes from the ‘no’ votes. The question's supporters said they were disheartened by the vote.
Kris Steele, the head of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, and a representative for the coalition Yes on 805, said they’re going back to the drawing board.
"We will certainly start in the morning to make sense of what happened in this election and prioritize our agenda moving forward and make sure that we have a strategy that hopefully will resonate with the Legislature and the people of Oklahoma," Steele said.
He said Oklahoma’s incarceration rates are still far too high and no single policy will be the silver bullet to disrupt that trend.
State Question 805 would have changed the state’s constitution to end the state’s practice of increasing the maximum allowable prison sentence for defendants who have been convicted of more than one nonviolent felony. The question also would’ve allowed people already convicted to apply for sentence modifications.
Opponents to the question say it would have put crime victims in more danger and rewarded people convicted of serious felonies not listed under state law’s violent crime list. They also say the constitutional change would have locked the state into the policy because it would’ve required another vote of the people to make future changes.
Oklahoma voters also rejected State Question 814, a proposal to shift public health funding to Medicaid.
The measure would have moved annual payments away from the Tobacco Endowment Settlement Trust, or TSET, to pay for Medicaid expansion.
Matt Glanville, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, was part of the opposition coalition. He said the vote signified Oklahoma’s support for TSET and its public health programming, including tobacco cessation and cancer research. The expansion unlocks about $1 billion in federal funding, but Oklahoma has to put up about $150 million.
The opposition has maintained State Question 814 was not necessary to pay for Medicaid expansion.
"They've proven that they can already do that through the passage of a bill this year that would have provided the lion's share of funding for Medicaid expansion and was vetoed by the governor," Glanville said.
State Senator Kim David, who authored the measure that put State Question 814 on the ballot, said that because of the pandemic’s blow to the economy, their options have narrowed.
"The money has to come from somewhere," David said. "And with the pandemic — the cuts that we've already had. You know, I hope, I certainly hope that the cuts don't come to the existing population."
The Legislature will have to tackle the issue when it reconvenes in February.
OKLAHOMA COUNTY ELECTS FIRST BLACK SHERIFF
Republican candidate Tommie Johnson will become Oklahoma County's first Black sheriff after defeating Democrat Wayland Cubit.
Johnson defeated incumbent P.D. Taylor in the August runoff. The Oklahoma City native campaigned on a platform of safer communities, fiscal responsibility and partnerships. He also wants to focus on modernizing the sheriff’s office to improve relationships with the troubled Oklahoma County Jail and various constituencies.
The 31-year-old will take command at a time when policing of minority communities is under intense scrutiny.
STATE HOUSE SUPERMAJORITY GROWS LARGER
Partisan numbers are a wash in the state Senate after the parties swapped two Tulsa seats.
- Democratic incumbent Allison Ikley-Freeman resoundingly lost her Tulsa Senate seat to Republican challenger Cody Rogers by more than 11,000 votes. Ikley-Freeman took a three-month break from the campaign trail to recover from serious injuries sustained in a car accident in May.
- The Democrats did however pick up a seat when Jo Anna Dossett beat Republican Cheryl Baber by more than 600 votes. The Tulsa seat was previously held by Republican Gary Stanislawski since 2008, but he was term-limited.
Meanwhile, the Republican supermajority in the State House picked up five additional seats for a new total of 82.
- In Tahlequah, Democratic incumbent Matt Meredith was defeated by Republican challenger Bob Ed Culver by nearly 1,400 votes.
- Democratic incumbent Kelly Albright also lost her Midwest City House seat to Republican challenger Max Wolfley by a narrow margin of 322 votes.
- In Oklahoma City, another Democratic incumbent — Chelsey Branham — was defeated by Republican challenger Eric Roberts by almost 800 votes.
- Republicans picked up another House seat when Dick Lowe won House District 56 in southwestern Oklahoma. It was up for grabs following Democratic incumbent David Perryman's retirement. Perryman had held the seat since 2013.
- Republicans picked up a seat in far northeastern Oklahoma earlier this year when Democrat Ben Loring declined to seek re-election. Republican Steve Bashore became the new representative by default when no one else ran for the seat.
Several Democratic representatives retained their seats by narrow margins.
- In a hotly contested race between educators in Norman, Democratic incumbent Jacob Rosecrants squeaked out a win over Republican challenger Nancy Sangirardi by just 79 votes.
- Another Norman Democratic incumbent Merelyn Bell was re-elected by voters, with about 600 votes separating her from Republican challenger Phillip Hillian.
- In Stillwater, Democratic incumbent Trish Ranson was re-elected to her House seat by nearly 600 voted over Republican challenger Aaron Means.
And there will be several new names in the state legislature next session, including:
- Mauree Turner, who will become Oklahoma's first Muslim lawmaker. The 27-year-old defeated Democratic incumbent Jason Dunnington in June in the left-leaning Oklahoma City House District 88. She easily defeated Republican candidate Kelly Barlean.
- Self-described abortion abolitionist Warren Hamilton will also join the legislature. Hamilton soundly picked up a Senate seat in southeastern Oklahoma over Democrat Jerry Donathan. He previously defeated Larry Boggs in the Republican runoff in August.
Updated 7:48 p.m.
Shortly after polls closed across the state, the Associated Press called Oklahoma's Senate race for Republican Incumbent Jim Inhofe. This would be his 6th term in office. The Associated Press also called Oklahoma for President Donald Trump. With early voting and a few of the precincts in, President Trump holds a 53 percent lead to Biden’s 45 percent.
NPR relies on the AP in large part because it has a track record of precision and caution.
Andy Griffin, a resident of Yale for about 35 years, said he voted for Trump this election.
"He's kept jobs up. He's even got more jobs going," Griffin said. "And I think he's going to do it again."
Billy Glasby also came to the polls to vote for the president. He's a Yale resident of 20 years. While he's a Democrat, he's voting for Donald Trump, like he did in 2016. He thinks Trump is opinionated, and takes stances on issues. He's also concerned about the protests going on in the country.
"At least he's opinionated," Glaspy said. "Don't seem like he follows the herd."
Updated 7:00 p.m.
Polls have closed in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Election Board publishes an unofficial result tally, as they come in, from county election boards. You can see them here.
Oklahoma public radio stations and NPR are covering local and national election returns over the next few hours. Tune into our stations on-air or online, or stay tuned to this post. We'll provide context and analysis as the results roll in.
You can also join the Oklahoma Engaged virtual watch party for more discussion here.
Updated 6:03 p.m.
William Crozier of Union City said he’s been voting for years. But when he turned 18, he couldn’t vote because Oklahoma’s age requirement was 21 at the time. That changed in 1971, when voters approved State Question 484, which lowered it to age 18.
“Of course, what we need to have is political parties that pay attention to what the needs of people are and have less rhetoric,” Crozier said.
In north Tulsa, many voters casting their ballots said racial injustice was something they wanted their elected officials to deal with.
Voting at Tulsa Tech's Peoria campus, 47-year-old Thomas, who did not give his last name, said State Question 805 was an important election issue for him.
"As we continue down the path as a state to be more humanistic, if you will, I think the state question dealing with incarceration is important," Thomas said.
Updated 5:03 p.m.
Dakota Harper, a resident of Union City, says he felt it was important to vote.
“I just felt like it was important to support my president really," Harper said. "I think it’s really a big deal to get out and vote, especially this election.”
Harper says he cares about issues like gun rights and abortion. He also came out to vote on the state questions.
Cassandra Walker, who works in social services, said criminal justice is a top issue for her and that she voted for Democrat Joe Biden.
“I think we just need a change,” Walker said.
Walker voted in Oklahoma City at Northwest Church of Christ, which didn’t have power for over three hours during the morning. The power came back on at the polling location while Walker was there and she waited in line for about 20 minutes.
Mallory Denton voted for the first time today at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Stillwater, Okla. In 2016, she had just turned 18-years-old, but missed the voter registration window. Today, she voted for Donald Trump.
"I'm not endorsing his public behavior, but what I've read sounds good to me," Denton said. "I also like that he comes from a business background."
Her husband Remington Denton is also voting for Trump.
"Joe Biden is why I'm voting for Donald Trump," Denton said. "I feel like Biden isn't as bad as Hillary Clinton was in 2016, but I feel like he has the potential to be controlled by the Democratic party, just like she was."
Denton said Trump was a wild card, but now that he's been the president for the past four years, you know what you're getting with him.
Updated 4:33 p.m.
The weather was warm and windy as people trickled into TRAICE Academy in north Tulsa to cast their ballots. Many people reported waiting 20-30 minutes to cast their votes.
North Tulsa is a predominantly African-American Neighborhood in Tulsa. Many people we talked with said that racial injustice and issues of police brutality brought them to the polls.
Gay Eaton is a lifelong Tulsa resident. The 64-year-old has three brothers and three nephews who she prays won't be hurt by police violence.
"It sends chills down my spine," Eaton said when she thinks of them being stopped or having an encounter with police officers. She voted in support of State Question 805 because she thinks many African Americans get longer sentences for low level crimes.
"There are so many issues we get left behind on and so many things that the city ignores."
55 year-old Greshon, who did not give her last name, said she votes in every election. She's unhappy with the way the coronavirus pandemic was handled and that's why she came out to vote.
"The numbers keep increasing. That's really scaring me," she said.
Brother and sister Billy and Verdell Williams came out to exercise their right to vote, same as they always do. They're very worried about the pandemic.
"We got to get someone in [The White House] that is really concerned about the virus," Verdell said.
Another pair of siblings 20-year-old Mikaela Scott and 18 year-old Jonathan Scott are first time voters. Mikaela wore a shirt that read, "I Can't Breathe," referring to both Eric Garner and George Floyd — both of whom were killed by police officers. She wants someone in office that will deal with racial injustice.
"Black lives matter, 100%. That's the biggest thing," said Mikaela, whose great-grandmother Rosa B. Skinner lived through the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The siblings voted for Biden.
"What Kamala Harris and Joe Biden speak of, connects with me," said Mikaela.
Rachel Schuler and her brother John Vigil own a janitorial business and lost work during the pandemic. They want someone who will handle the economy better and get folks back to work. Both say they're tired of political division.
"It's tearing us apart."
Updated 4:03 p.m.
Long lines to wait to vote aren't just an urban problem in Oklahoma. They're an issue in rural areas, too.
Sharon Cannon of Noble had been in line waiting to vote for more than five hours and still had more time to go until she could cast her ballot at the Noble Senior Citizen Center.
"I'm adamant," Cannon said. "I'm staying here until I can vote."
The issue was there were only four booths inside a tiny room at the senior center. That made social distancing and actually casting a ballot difficult.
In 2016 voting had been a little bit easier, Cannon said.
"I waited 30 or 40 minutes and I thought that was ridiculous," she said.
Cannon said people have been generous, though. Folks have come by with doughnuts, granola bars and bottles of water over the time she's been there. But she feared, people in Noble would be disenfranchised and unable to vote because of the time commitment.
Here's the line to vote at the Noble Senior Center. One woman told me she'd been waiting for more than five hours to cast her ballot. pic.twitter.com/cmzLnMm4N7
— Robby Korth (@RobbyKorth) November 3, 2020
Updated 2:31 p.m.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Oklahoma State Election Board and OG&E released a statement this morning saying that all polling locations would have power on election day. This is after last week’s ice storm left hundreds of thousands in the state without power for multiple days.
But Northwest Church of Christ, a polling location in Oklahoma City, did not have power for over three hours on the morning of the election. While the power was out, people were still able to vote since Oklahoma uses paper ballots.
An election official at the polling site said over 100 ballots were placed inside an “emergency box” on the voting machine where ballots are put if there is a power outage or technical issue. Those ballots are then counted by either the ballot scanner once the power is back on or at the County Election Board later in the evening.
An election official said the power was restored at the polling site after 10 a.m., once OG&E brought a generator. According to a news release, there are a few polling locations relying on generator power today. OG&E and ODEMHS have back-up generators available if additional outages occur.
Despite this message being sent out by the state, folks at NW Church of Christ say the power has been out all morning.
YOU CAN STILL VOTE EVEN WITHOUT POWER
— Storme Jones (@StormeJones) November 3, 2020
Updated 12:06 p.m.
Incumbent Jim Inhofe and his challenger Abby Broyles made stops in Tulsa on Tuesday to speak with the media and campaign before the polls close.
Inhofe, who is seeking a sixth term, is being challenged by attorney and newcomer Broyles, who grew up in Bethany and is running on affordable health care, climate change and closing the pay gap for women.
Inhofe is confident that Trump will win another term in office and says that his confidence is boosted by the record number of people who voted early.
"It's huge," said Inhofe, who spoke outside Wright Elementary School near the Brookside neighborhood in Tulsa. "We've not seen anything quite like it. I think we're going to set records."
Broyles spoke with reporters at the Tulsa Press Club inside the Atlas Building in downtown Tulsa. She said she is also impressed with early voting and said it was a referendum on incumbents.
"I'm confident we have a great shot at winning tonight and I think that we will win," she said.
If she doesn't win, she still wants to continue working for Oklahomans.
"I certainly believe my career in journalism and becoming an attorney is set me up for public service."
Inhofe will hold a watch party tonight in Broken Arrow, while Broyles will hold a more low-key event in Oklahoma City with fewer people to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
Updated 11:28 a.m.
Oklahoman public radio reporters are covering the 2020 general election and talking with voters as they wait in long lines.
Christopher Uribe, 24, is a warehouse associate for Amazon and was given the day off for the election. He waited about 30 minutes in line to vote at a polling site in southwest Oklahoma City. Uribe said he voted for U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district race.
“I was actually trying to put more hope out there for democracy and to see if we can change our ways and work together again,” Uribe said.
Uribe said there were signs inside the polling site that directed voters to stay six feet apart due to COVID-19.
Carol Dear is a 73-year-old resident of Perkins, Oklahoma and a first-time voter. Of her first time voting she said, "I like it!" She said the most exciting part of the experience was voting for Donald Trump.
"Donald Trump is good for America. He gets things done and has helped people on social security."
Vickie and Lyle Lockwood voted for Donald Trump for the second time today in Perkins, Oklahoma.
"So many headwinds were against [Trump] and he still managed to do so much," said Lyle Lockwood.
The Lockwoods think Trump will win another four years in office.
Update 10:15 a.m.
Some politicians have encouraged supporters to go to polling locations and look out for voter fraud. But according to an Oklahoma state statute, that’s a misdemeanor offense.
Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax says unless you’re a voter or an election official, it’s a crime to be within 50 feet of a ballot box or inside the election enclosure where voters are checked in, issued ballots and vote.
"If you think you're just going to mosey around town and pop in polling place after polling place and observe – no, you're not. Because in order to protect the integrity of the election process, that's not allowed."
Ziriax says Oklahoma law does allow for a candidate or recognized political party to appoint a poll watcher to be present before the polls open and after the polls close, but they are not allowed at the polling place during the day.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, as Oklahomans go to the polls in an already record-breaking election in terms of absentee and early voting. Besides the presidential race, Oklahoma voters will determine a U.S. Senate race, five U.S. House seats, two state questions, corporation commissioner and several local elections.
Oklahoma election officials are expecting a heavy turnout today and say lines at the polls are typically longer before work, around lunch time and right after work.
Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax is asking the public to be courteous towards those working the poll sites.
“Our county election boards are facing challenges they’ve never experienced before, but they have been preparing for this election for months,” Ziriax said. “We want to assure Oklahomans that every registered voter that wants to vote will be able to vote. This election will be conducted safely, fairly and securely. We ask that voters be patient and courteous not only to other voters, but election workers as well.”
Some of the COVID-19 safety protocols – including social distancing – may slow down lines and voting processes on election day. Safety protocols also include a recommendation for voters to wear a face covering to the polls.
Election officials have advised voters to check on the state’s OK Voter Portal to verify their polling location – since a few have changed due to the COVID-19 emergency. Voters can also take a sample ballot with them as notes. Several forms of identification are accepted as proof of identity with voting. You will only need to show one of the following IDs before receiving a ballot. Those IDs include:
- A valid photo ID issued by federal, state or tribal governments (the expiration date must be after the date of the election)
- The free voter identification card issued to every voter by their county election board
- Signing an affidavit and vote on a provisional ballot.
EARLY VOTING BOOM
Preliminary numbers from Monday evening show a record-breaking turnout this general election. Early voting and vote by mail numbers from the Oklahoma State Election Board show that, so far, turnout has increased by 175% compared to the 2016 general election.
More than 272,000 Oklahomans have voted by mail, and more than 165,000 people voted early, making a total of more than 444,000 votes cast so far. That’s compared to more than 253,000 in 2016.
Forty-six percent of those who have already cast a ballot are registered Republicans, and about 41 percent are registered Democrats.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 5
The most watched race in the state tonight is likely to be Congressional District 5, which includes portions of Oklahoma, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. Democratic U.S. Representative Kendra Horn seeks to retain her seat against Republican challenger and State Senator Stephanie Bice.
The district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 by a margin of about 13 points. But just two years later, Horn beat incumbent Republican Steve Russell by a thin margin in a huge upset. A Democrat hadn't held the seat since 1975 or any Congressional seat since 2013.
Bice has been known as a moderate Republican state senator who helped organize around issues including modernizing the state’s alcohol laws. Meanwhile, Horn, a moderate Democrat, is known for her ability to build coalitions and her grassroots campaign.
TWO STATE QUESTIONS
There are two state questions on the Nov. 3 general election ballot:
State Question 805 is a criminal justice reform question. If approved, a person convicted of a nonviolent felony could no longer receive a greater or 'enhanced' sentence based on past nonviolent felony convictions. The constitutional amendment would also allow people in Oklahoma convicted of a nonviolent felony currently serving time on an enhanced sentence to petition the court for a shorter sentence.
State Question 814 is a health funding question. If approved, it would change the percentage of tobacco settlement money that goes each year to the Tobacco Endowment Settlement Trust, or TSET, from 75 percent to 25 percent. State lawmakers would then appropriate and expend those funds to secure federal matching money for the state’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare.
OKLAHOMA COUNTY SHERIFF
Oklahoma County is guaranteed to have its first Black sheriff after this election.
Republican candidate Tommie Johnson defeated incumbent P.D. Taylor in the August runoff with more than 60 percent of the vote. The Oklahoma City native is running on a platform of safer communities, fiscal responsibility and partnerships. Johnson also says he wants to focus on modernizing the sheriff’s office to improve relationships with the troubled Oklahoma County Jail and various constituencies.
Johnson will face Wayland Cubit, a Democrat, who is employed by the Oklahoma City Police Department. During his career, he has focused on community and youth outreach in an effort to reduce interactions with law enforcement. In his platform, Cubit says he is running to create solutions that will allow people, no matter their race, to thrive in Oklahoma County.
Both Johnson and Cubit are Black and one will take command at a time when policing of minority communities is under intense scrutiny.
VOTING IN A PANDEMIC
The Oklahoma State Election Board has developed COVID-19 safety protocols at polling places for today's general election.
Poll workers have been supplied with personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and disinfectant. Safety protocols will include placing voting booths six feet apart and disinfecting voting equipment.
Voters are asked to follow signage and procedures. State election officials also strongly recommend voters wear a mask or face covering.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Oklahoma Engaged is an election project by NPR member stations in Oklahoma, with support from the Inasmuch Foundation, the Kirkpatrick Foundation and Oklahoma Humanities.