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UCO to Host Forum Addressing Voter Turnout Issues

Dec. 21, 2016

Media Contact: Adrienne Nobles, Assistant Vice President, UCO University Communications, 405-974-2130,


Voter turnout in Oklahoma is among the lowest in the nation. According to numbers from the State Election Board, a record was set for the March primary with only 39.5 percent of eligible voters turning out.  Participation in November’s general election stood at 67 percent, driven by high-profile state questions like a sales tax increase to fund teacher raises.           

That participation pales by comparison to elections during Oklahoma’s territorial and early statehood eras, when 75 to 90 percent of voters showed up on election day.           

Why the fall-off?           

That question will be the topic of a day-long Voter Issues Forum at the University of Central Oklahoma 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 20 in the Nigh University Center.  The forum is free and open to the public.  A luncheon address also is free, but it requires advanced registration.           

The discussions will explore the tumultuous political history of Oklahoma emphasizing those political philosophies that still motivate Sooners to vote today; state election laws and the ease of voting; who votes in Oklahoma elections and why; whether legislative district boundaries accurately represent the registered voters who live in them; why young people don’t vote; and what legislation will be introduced in the 2017 that could affect elections and voter participation.

Forum participants also will be able to view the inauguration address of President-elect Donald Trump live.           

The forum will assist in identifying issues to be discussed at a statewide Oklahoma Town Hall Academy set for October 2017 to investigate voter participation and election issues that will offer public policy changes to state leaders.           

Among the presenters at the UCO forum are Oklahoma History Center Executive Director Bob Blackburn; award winning author and attorney Bob Burke; League of Women Voters President Sheila Swearingen; Bryan Dean, public information officer for the State Election Board; Bill Shapard, founder of Sooner Poll and ShapardResearch; Julie Knutson, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Academy; David Glover, coordinator of; community activist Bill Clifford; State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City; and State Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha.           

Numerous UCO faculty and administrators also will participate. These include political science professors Lou Furmanski, Ph.D., Jan Hardt, Ph.D., and Brett Sharp, Ph.D.  History and geography department members who are presenting include Patti Loughlin, Ph.D., Brad Watkins, Ph.D. and Rowan Steineker. The UCO Center for Civic Engagement will be represented by Dr. Janelle Grellner, Ph.D., and John Wood, Ph.D.  Sharra Hynes, Ph.D., associate vice president for student affairs, will serve as a session moderator on student voter participation.           

To learn more about the forum agenda or to register for the luncheon, visit            

For more information about the event, contact forum chair Mark Kinders, Ed. D., at 405-974-5562.