- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma election officials hope that a new online voter registration system will increase voter participation in the state.

Since 2000, the number of people eligible to cast a ballot who haven’t registered to vote in the state has more than doubled, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/29bIwhq ). About 389,000 of the nearly 2.5 million eligible Oklahomans did not register in 2000, and that number grew to more than 800,000 of the total eligible population by 2014.

The 30-to-39-year-old age group showed the biggest decrease in voter registration, falling from 82 percent to 62 percent. But the 18-to-29-year-old group continues to have the lowest percentage of registered voters, falling from 61 percent to 48 percent.

Apathy among middle-aged people is also growing. Those in their 40s declined in registration from about 83 percent to 67 percent of the eligible population, while the 50s crowd went from 85 percent to 74 percent. Only citizens older than 60 stayed the same or went slightly higher in voter registration.

Officials, researchers and advocates point to a range of explanations for the growing voter absenteeism, including poverty and Oklahoma’s flyover status among national candidates.

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he is troubled by the falling numbers.

“As an election administrator, frankly it’s discouraging that things are so much easier now in terms of registering to vote and in terms of actually voting than at any time in the past,” Ziriax said.

University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said the state is nearly last in the country when it comes to voter registration and participation. Compared to 2000, the young adult population in Oklahoma is now more black, Latino, Asian and Native American, all of which are less likely to participate in electoral politics through registering and voting, Gaddie said.

A 2015 law calls for the implementation of an online voter registration system in the state, which will still require applicants to provide a driver’s license or state ID. Ziriax could not provide a cost estimate for the system but said he hopes it will be about $1 million or less.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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