Trump's Oklahoma County squeaker, Horn's Grady County connection and 3 other things about the election
In a general election that set a new record in Oklahoma for votes cast, President Donald Trump became the first presidential candidate in state history to surpass one million votes.
And though the president and Vice President Mike Pence gained 71,144 votes over their Oklahoma totals in 2016, the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris had an even bigger gain — 83,515 more votes than Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine. The Libertarian ticket, which had two former governors in 2016 but political unknowns in 2020, got 58,750 fewer votes this year.
The Oklahoma State Election Board certified the general election results on Tuesday.
In a social media post a few days after the election, the state election board rebutted a New York Times report that had included Oklahoma among states at risk of an election system “meltdown.”
Far from a meltdown, the board noted, the election was a success, with record turnout, results posted on election night and results certified by counties on Nov. 7.
“And did we mention this successfully-administered election saw record mail absentees, record early voting, & was conducted a week after a major ice storm clobbered more than half our state?” the board said in a tweet.
With the results officially in the books, here are five things about Oklahoma’s 2020 general election.
Trump total a record, but not his winning margin
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Trump received 1,020,280 votes, which is now the record to break in Oklahoma. The previous high for a presidential candidate in Oklahoma was 960,159 for the late Sen. John McCain, a Republican, in 2008. Before that, it was 959,792 by former President George W. Bush in 2004.
Trump’s votes were 65.37% of the total, slightly higher than the 65.32% he received in 2016.
Republican Richard M. Nixon got 73.7% of the vote in Oklahoma in 1972 when he defeated George McGovern, slightly better than the 73.3% Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt received in 1932.
Relatively few absentee ballots rejected for being late
The record number of votes cast in a presidential election in Oklahoma —1,560,699 — was boosted by the record number of ballots cast by mail — 280,885 — and early in-person — 167,185. Combined, nearly 195,000 more ballots were cast by mail or early in-person than in 2016.
Biden received nearly 52,000 more votes than Trump that were cast by mail, but Trump got about twice as many votes cast early in-person. And Trump got 72% of the 1.1 million votes cast on election day.
On Friday, 5,170 mail-in ballots had been recorded as uncounted because of deficiencies. Not all counties have reported their rejected absentee ballot counts.
The most common reasons cited so far for rejection concerned the affidavit and required identification. Sixteen people forgot to include the ballot in the envelope, while three mailed in the wrong ballot.
So far, only 631 were reported to be rejected for being late. Mail-in ballots must be received by the time the polls close, which is 7 p.m. on election day.
Oklahoma was one of the many states that received a letter from the U.S. Postal Service warning that the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot, a week before the election, was probably too close to election day to guarantee the ballot could be received, mailed and delivered on time.
Most voters mailing their ballots apparently heeded the numerous pleas that they not wait until the last minute.
In Oklahoma County, a narrow victory for Trump
Oklahoma County came closest to ending the Republican streak of winning all 77 counties in presidential elections; the streak dates to the 2004 election between then-President George W. Bush, the Republican, and then-Sen. John Kerry.
The state’s most populous county saw an increase of 20,798 ballots cast this year compared to the 2016 presidential election, but Trump only received 3,481 more votes than he got in the county four years ago. His margin dropped from 51.7% to 49.2%, and he beat Biden by just 3,326 votes out of 294,740 cast in the county, where registration is still plurality Republican.
Biden received 28,911 more votes in Oklahoma County than Clinton in 2016, while the Libertarian ticket got 14,288 fewer votes this year; three independent candidates got a total of 2,694 votes, with musician Kanye West leading with 1,326.
Oklahoma County was the only one of the 77 counties that favored State Question 805, on criminal justice reform; the question got 54% of the vote in Oklahoma County while it received 39% statewide.
Turnout in Oklahoma County was 67% of registered voters, compared to 69% statewide.
Though Trump failed to reach 50% in the county, Republican Tommie Johnson won the closely watched sheriff’s race with 53% of the vote, beating Democrat Wayland Cubit. Johnson received 8,572 more votes in the county than Trump.
Pollster and political consultant Pat McFerron, president of Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates, said, “I think this difference is partly Republicans who could not support the president coming back home down ballot, as well as a preference for Republicans on law and order issues.”
Also, he said, “the Johnson campaign ran an aggressive but targeted campaign in precincts where Republicans tended to overperform, notably going after independents and senior citizen Democrats, which I think helped them as well.”
Oklahoma County Clerk David B. Hooten and Oklahoma County Court Clerk Rick Warren, both Republican incumbents, also got more votes than Trump.
Horn wasn't born the last time a freshman lost
U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, became Oklahoma’s first freshman member of Congress to be defeated since 1968. Horn, 44, lost to state Sen. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma City Republican, who got 52% of the vote.
The last one-term member of Congress from Oklahoma to lose was James Vernon Smith, a Republican, who won the 6th Congressional District seat in 1966. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the districts were redrawn while Smith was in office, and he was put into the same district as long-time Rep. Tom Steed, a Democrat. Steed beat Smith in 1968.
There was a consolation prize for Smith: he was nominated by President Richard Nixon, and confirmed by the Senate, to head the Farmers Home Administration.
Horn in 2018 defeated two-term incumbent Steve Russell, a Republican.
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, Smith grew up in Tuttle, in Grady County, the same county in which Horn was raised. He went to college in Chickasha, Horn's hometown.
AP Survey: Majority of Oklahomans say coronavirus under control
Trump’s wide margin of victory in Oklahoma came despite a very close split in the state about the direction of the country.
According to a nationwide survey by the Associated Press that included 673 voters and 292 nonvoters in Oklahoma, 52% of those surveyed in the state said the U.S. is on the right track, while 48% said the country is on the wrong track.
Though coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been rising dramatically in the state and the nation, 58% of Oklahomans surveyed said the virus was either completely or mostly under control.
About one-third of the Oklahomans surveyed named the coronavirus as the top issue facing the country and another one-third cited the economy. Views on the economy were also evenly split, with 49% describing economic conditions as good or excellent.