OKLAHOMA CITY — Three days of early voting begins Friday across much of Oklahoma for the state’s primary runoff election, including for Democrats and Republicans who live in 26 eastern Oklahoma counties that make up the state’s fiercely contested 2nd Congressional District seat.
The hot race in eastern Oklahoma is for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. On the Republican side, Markwayne Mullin, a plumbing company owner from Westville, faces three-term state Rep. George Faught of Muskogee. For Democrats, voters will choose between longtime state and federal prosecutor Rob Wallace and Muskogee seed company owner Wayne Herriman.
Turnout is generally much lower for a primary runoff. But with candidates on both sides of the aisle vying for their party’s nomination for the state’s only open U.S. House seat, it’s difficult to project turnout, said Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.
“That certainly could cause turnout to be higher than you would expect in some areas,” Ziriax said. “Typically you see a drop-off in turnout in the runoff primary compared to the primary itself.”
In counties with a state or federal office on the ballot, including all 26 counties in the 2nd District, voters can cast absentee ballots in person at their county election board office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Monday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. In counties with only local or county races, election board offices will not be open for early voting on Saturday.
Individual polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Rogers County Election Board Secretary Julie Dermody, whose county has the most voters in the 2nd District, said she expects between 7 percent and 12 percent of registered voters to participate in the runoff. Turnout in the June 26 primary was close to 35 percent for Republicans and 12 percent for Democrats, but those figures were driven by tightly contested local races and a vote on a countywide sales tax.
“I think we’ll have a much lower turnout than we had for the primary,” she said.
Campaign officials for all four 2nd District candidates on the ballot said they are emphasizing early voting as an option for their supporters.
“We’re making sure that everyone we talk to knows they can vote (Friday), Saturday and Monday,” Wallace said. “We’re encouraging people to vote as early as they can.”
Wallace recalled a race he was in several years ago when a grass fire broke out on election day and kept many firefighters and first responders from making it to the polls.
“That’s a real possibility given the current conditions we’re seeing,” Wallace said. “Sometimes things come up on election day that prevent you from voting.”
Besides the 2nd District race, there also will be eight primary runoffs for open state legislative seats — four each in the Senate and House. Tuesday’s ballot also has numerous county races, as well as local and school district questions.