MIAMI — Rural votes helped sway the presidential election, according to a Northeastern Oklahoma A&M social studies professor.
“I was surprised by the strength in rural America,” said Tom Callan, a longtime instructor at NEO. “As I watched the results on Tuesday night and you look at the results pouring in from Florida at 8:30 or 9 o’clock, it was like a ping-pong game, very close. She (Hillary Clinton) leads, he (Donald Trump) leads and after a while, it becomes clear that her lead in Broward or Miami-Dade (counties) is not sufficient to make up that red blotch of ink, which was rural Florida.
“It’s really fascinating that we have an election where rural America has made the difference. We’ve never been able to say that in my lifetime.”
Heading into Tuesday’s vote, most national surveys overstated what possibly would be a narrow popular vote advantage for Clinton and led many to believe she was a shoo-in to win the Electoral College.
But Trump upset the apple cart.
Clinton won 47.8 percent of the popular vote (60,839,922) compared to 47.3 percent (60,265,858) for Trump.
But Trump wound up with 290 of the 270 electoral votes needed.
“Those polls were never able to gauge or estimate turnout in rural America to be at such stratospherically high levels,” Callan said. “A lot of these national folks have no feel for what is going on in wide swaths of the middle of the country. It’s just amazing to me that what folks are saying here is not what I am hearing on MSNBC, any shape or form.”
The turnout for Tuesday’s election was the largest in Ottawa County Election Board secretary Verna Ferris’s tenure.
There were 10,690 voters who cast ballots either by mail, early voting or in person for the Nov. 8 general election, said Ferris, who has held the position for 11 years.
That is 64 percent of the 16,643 registered voters in Ottawa County.
“It was overwhelmingly large, it’s about 60 percent. Usually we run 30 to 35 percent,” Ferris said.
By comparison, only 18 percent (2,791) of the registered voters participated in the June primary election.
Nationally more than 46 million people had voted prior to Election Day, breaking early voting records.
Then on Tuesday, 133 million votes were cast nationwide.
The contentious presidential vote and four local races helped bump up the turnout.
In Oklahoma, 1,455,000 votes were cast, 52.1 percent of registered voters, according to the United States Elections Project.
“The biggest concerns we had was people went to vote and they were not on the poll book because they hadn’t voted in eight to 12 years,” Ferris said. “They had been purged out of the system. People have the misunderstanding that once you register to vote, it’s for life. It’s not.”
Farris said the second biggest problem was voters showing up at the wrong election site.
Ferris had stressed in earlier stories about having voters check on their eligibility and polling place.
One misconception is that a voter is registered for life.
“We had one guy come in here who was over 50 and he said ‘well, I registered when I registered for the draft,’” Ferris said. “You can not believe the number of older people that said they had never voted in their life. This was the first time.”
Only 14 provisional ballots were cast in Ottawa County.
A provisional ballot is one that is used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility.
“That is more than we usually have, but nothing compared to Delaware County (which had 91),” Ferris said.
The biggest surprise locally came when Republican Jeremy Floyd defeated incumbent Derek Derwin in the race for sheriff
Other local winners included Chad Masterson in the County Commission District 2 race, Ben Loring as Oklahoma State Representative and Michael Berkstrom in the state Senate race.
Masterson beat Jimmy “Poncho” King by only 15 votes, but King didn’t request a recount.
“I am fully confident they counted them right the first time,” King told the News-Record Tuesday night.