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More Oklahoma voters left presidential ballot blank than in 2012

The number of Oklahoma voters who left their presidential ballot blank this year or wrote in a candidate nearly doubled from the 2012 election, according to data from the Oklahoma State Election Board.

Some 15,931 Oklahoma voters rejected Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Gary Johnson last Tuesday, leaving all three boxes blank. In 2012, just 8,161 Oklahoma ballots did not include a vote for president.

Trump ultimately won the state with 949,136 votes — more than 65 percent of the 1,452,992 votes cast in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, writing in a candidate is the same as not voting, because the votes are not counted, said Bryan Dean, public information officer for the state Election Board.

The Oklahoma ballot does not even include a space to write in a candidate.

"We don't get any information ever on write-in votes. The machine doesn't scan a name written on a ballot, we can't count them according to state law, and we don't open the ballot boxes and manually observe ballots unless there is a petition for recount," Dean said Monday in an email.

Oklahoma is one of seven states that do not allow write-in candidates, which includes Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and South Dakota.

Tulsa resident Dustin Schluterman wanted to vote for the independent-conservative candidate Evan McMullin in the presidential election, but could not because there was no place on the ballot to do so.

A registered Republican, Schluterman decided he'd rather leave his ballot blank this election rather than vote for Trump or Clinton.

"The rest of the ballot was very important to me and I didn't want to take a chance of it being invalidated if I wrote someone in," Schluterman said.

Former Oklahoma City resident Kyle Kues, who now lives in Germany, voted absentee in the Oklahoma election, but left the presidential portion of the ballot blank.

Kues was a supporter of Bernie Sanders, but felt like he was left without a good choice after Sanders lost to Clinton in the Democratic primary.

"I despise both candidates, and am not voting for an outlier candidate. And since I am voting for a state where the outcome is not ever going to be in question, I elected to choose neither," Kues said. "Had I been voting from a swing state, I would have voted Hillary."

In August, two presidential candidates, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and progressive Rock De La Fuente, filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma, claiming its ballot access laws are biased against independent and third-party candidates. The lawsuit is ongoing.

In Oklahoma, the signature requirements for a third-party candidate to get on the ballot are labor intensive and cost prohibitive for most, said Rachel Jackson, facilitator of for the Green Party of Oklahoma's Cooperative Council.

In Oklahoma, the Green Party would have had to gather about 24,000 signatures to get Stein on the November ballot, she said.

Jackson said that while she cast a vote for president in Tuesday's election "not for the guy who won," she would have liked to have had the opportunity to vote for Stein.

"Do you cast a vote even though you can't vote for the candidate you want to vote for, or do you abstain from voting," Jackson said. "I just felt in this election that every vote was going to count."

Piedmont resident Michael Houston said he doesn't understand why Oklahoma voting laws still allow for straight-party voting but not write-in candidates.

Houston said he disliked all of the candidates on the Oklahoma ballot so much, he decided just leaving the boxes blank was his best option this year.

“I wish I could have written somebody in so at least I could have voted for somebody,” he said.

If Oklahoma voters do feel compelled to write-in a candidate, it won't invalidate the entire ballot, the write-in name just won't be counted, Dean said.

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›