Volunteers for the Oklahoma Democratic Party register voters during the Oklahoma teacher walkout Tuesday, April 10, 2018. BRIANNA BAILEY/The Frontier

Oklahoma has seen a surge in new voter registration this year, but that much-hyped 2018 blue wave hasn’t made an appearance yet in the numbers.

More than 39,000 people have registered to vote in Oklahoma since January—and the bulk of new voters are Republican, according to data from the Oklahoma State Election Board.

Since January, 15,464 new voters have registered as Republicans, that’s about 39 percent of new voters in the state.

Pam Pollard, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Republican Party said the numbers show more people in Oklahoma identify as Republicans.

“The Oklahoma Republican Party has an aggressive plan to share our vision, principles and platform with citizens throughout Oklahoma,” Pollard said in an email “It is our hope non-registered citizens will be more active in their government and compare the platforms of the three recognized political parties.”

More new voters are registering as independent voters than Democrats.

About 12,000 people have registered as independent voters in Oklahoma this year, making up about 30 percent of new registered voters in the state.

Democrats have registered 10,788 new voters in Oklahoma this year, about 27 percent of new voters.
About 2 percent of new voters this year have registered as Libertarian—797 people.

Voter registration waxes and wanes with election cycles and as the state regularly works to remove inactive voters from the rolls, said Bryan Dean spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board.

Oklahoma now has about 2 million registered voters, up from about 1.97 million registered voters in January 2014. Voter registration typically surges again right before a November election. The deadline to register to vote before the June 26 primary is June 1.

Dean anticipates higher turnout in November than past midterm elections if new voter registration numbers are any indication. Oklahoma experienced record low midterm turnout in November 2014, with only about 40 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

There’s also a record number of candidates running for state and federal offices this year in Oklahoma, while many legislative races were uncontested in 2014.

“The hope is that the enthusiasm carries over and registration picks up and turnout is better—that’s what we plan to see,” Dean said.

A relatively small number of Oklahoma voters have changed their party affiliation this year—most switching from Democrat to Republican. The deadline to change party affiliation before the June 26 primary election was March 31.

Just 4,595 Oklahomans have changed party affiliation this year, with 2,048 voters changing from Democrat to Republican.

Brett Willison, 64, of Edmond was one of 567 people in the state to change their party affiliation from Republican to independent.

A Republican for decades, Willison said his dislike of President Donald Trump inspired the switch.

“I just think the Republican party with Trump at the helm is upside down. I hope there’s a Republican savior who can help right that ship, but until then I have jumped ship.”

The change means Willison will not be able to vote in the Oklahoma Republican primary, which is closed. He says he will instead try and find more conservative Democratic candidates he can support in the Democratic primary, which is open to independent voters in Oklahoma.

Javier Sagel, 39, a stay-at-home dad in Tulsa, changed his registration from Democrat to independent after the 2016 presidential election.

“I may have been feeling it for a while—but the catalyst was the election,” Sagel said. “I was just kind of disgusted with the whole process. I wasn’t feeling the Democrats and I definitely wasn’t feeling the Republicans.”

Just 353 Oklahoma voters have changed party affiliation from Democrat to independent this year.

Tom Cannon, 47, a software engineer who lives in Washington, is one of 80 people in Oklahoma who switched party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian this year.

When Cannon first registered to vote in Oklahoma nearly 20 years ago, Democrat or Republican were the only two options in the state.

He’s been wanting to change party affiliation ever since the Libertarian Party became recognized again in Oklahoma in 2016, but just recently got around to it.

“Ever since Oklahoma flipped red, It’s been going redder and redder since then and I want to see something push hard against that,” Cannon said.