Oklahoma breaks records in primary turnout

Posted at 7:34 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 09:14:13-05

TULSA -- Oklahoma's presidential primary on Super Tuesday brought people to the polls in record numbers. 

According to the state election board, turnout reached an all-time high of 795,096. The previous record was set in 2008 when 752,261 people voted in the presidential primary. 

Experts said Donald Trump's candidacy, first-time voters and Independents voting helped turnout reach a new record. 

Senator Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the Oklahoma Democratic primary by about 10 percentage points. Dakota Hines, 18, supported Sanders when he voted for the first time Tuesday. 

"I felt like I did something to help him win," Hines said, "because I voted for him."

CNN exit polling showed Sanders capturing 73 percent of first-time primary voters in Oklahoma. Eileen Rowley of Tulsa, a registered Independent, was allowed to vote for the first time in the primary because the Democrats opened it to Independents. She said she supports Sanders. 

"I don't think we need to necessarily move to a socialist country," Rowley said, "but [Sanders] has a lot of good ideas as far as taking the burden off the individual." 

Matt Hindman, assistant professor of political science at the University of Tulsa, said first-time voters likely boosted turnout for Sanders and helped him win. 

"Bernie was polling five points ahead of Clinton at the most recent polling," Hindman said. "I was quite surprised that he won by more than 10 points." 

A record number of Republicans helped Ted Cruz win in Oklahoma. State GOP leaders celebrated seeing record turnout at 459,542, almost twice the amount who voted in 2012. 

Hindman said the turnout is likely a reaction to Donald Trump's candidacy. 

"A lot of people really wanted to vote for Trump. A lot of people really wanted to vote against Trump," Hindman said. "Oklahoma's victory was big for Ted Cruz. It was unexpected. It helped to reverse a little bit of Trump's momentum." 

First-time voter David Mase, 18, said he voted Tuesday for Ben Carson because he "really can't trust" Trump, though he plans to vote for him in November if he becomes the Republican nominee. 

"I'll still have to vote for him," Mase said. "I'll still vote for him to keep a Democrat out of office." 

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