Over 5,000 Oklahomans turned out to vote early

Friday, October 31st 2008, 8:40 am
By: News 9


OKLAHOMA CITY -- Voters waited up to two hours to cast ballots Friday afternoon in the first day of early voting in Oklahoma.

Polls opened at county election boards across the state at 8 a.m., but lines began forming before dawn, with people toting their morning coffee and a newspaper.

At the Oklahoma County Election Board in northeast Oklahoma City a line began forming after 7 a.m. and continued to grow. At noon the average wait time was two hours.

For the most part, voters said they didn't mind the wait.

"It's organized chaos," early voter Jana Harkins said.  "It's such an upbeat festive occasion. You know there's no bells and whittles but you can tell from the conversation that people are just excited to be here today."

Harkins said she has voted early for several years and is organizing a community effort to get people to vote early on Saturday.

"Perhaps we can get our legislators to look at the possibility of expanding early voting here in Oklahoma," she said.

Early voting continues through 6 p.m. Friday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday. Click here to find your County Election Board to vote early.

All polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Click here to find your polling location for Tuesday.

NEWS 9 Political Analyst Scott Mitchell said he thinks more people are voting because the election boards did a better job of letting people know about early voting times.

"I think people in Oklahoma didn't know you could do it," he said.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson was one of the people casting early ballots in Oklahoma County.

"I often vote early...and I've never seen a line like this before," he said. "This really is an A-plus for democracy."

"We're either going to have the first African-American president or the first female vice president. One way or another, this is history making, and people recognize that."

The Tulsa County Election Board was crowded with early voters as well.

Assistant Secretary Shelly Boggs, who has worked for the Tulsa board for 23 years, said she hasn't tallied numbers for early voters yet, but the election offices appear much more crowded this year compared to previous elections.

She said many people who vote early say they simply want to get it out of the way, while others say they have obligations that won't allow them to get to the polls on election day.

In Stephens County in south-central Oklahoma, 130 people had voted in the first hour after the polls were opened for early voting.

The Oklahoma County Election Board said they estimate over 5,000 people turned out for the first day of early voting, and they expect the numbers to remain high on Saturday and Monday.