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Thousands Cast Ballots On First Day Of Early Voting At ONEOK Field

Chris Polansky
Voters line up at ONEOK Field for the first day of early voting in Tulsa County for the 2020 presidential election.

Long waits, high winds and cold rain could not keep thousands of Tulsa County residents from the first day of early voting at ONEOK Field Thursday.

According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, as of 4:59 p.m. Thursday, at least 3,268 ballots had been cast at the stadium, which is home to the Tulsa Drillers baseball team. The venue was chosen by the Tulsa County Election Board as the sole early voting location this year due to its ability to accommodate expected record turnout in an open-air environment better suited to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taylor Levacy, community relations manager for the Drillers, said the first voter in line arrived at 2:00 a.m. Thursday morning. 

Kenny Kupp, a small business owner from Bixby who was leaving the ballpark around 10:30 a.m., said it took about two hours from the time he got in line to when he walked out of the stadium after casting his vote.

"I didn't see any problems at all," Kupp said. "I mean, obviously, I don't know if they planned on it being this big. It would have been nice if it would have been faster."

"But if you don't vote, you don't have a voice," Kupp said.

Kupp said he would be out of town on Election Day, and that he did not trust the process of voting by mail because he believed the practice lends itself to "massive voter fraud."

Marcus Carpenter, a retiree from Broken Arrow, also said he did not trust the security of mail-in voting. 

"We know that it easily could cause issues," said Carpenter, who was wearing a baseball cap in support of President Trump. "Or there's an opportunity for issues with mail-in ballots, let's put it that way."

(There is no evidence to support Trump's frequent claims that mail-in voting results in widespread fraud. Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman has described Oklahoma's mail-in absentee voting system as "very, very good" and not particularly vulnerable to fraud.)

Tamatha Christopher, a health care worker from Broken Arrow, said she was voting in-person because of a lack of trust not in election officials, but in the U.S. Postal Service delivering her ballot on time. 

Christopher said she would wait however many hours it took to cast her ballot, and that her experience in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic was influencing her vote against President Trump.

"He's not doing his job," she said. "We need someone in there that's going to work for the people, not for themselves."

Bob and Gayla DeLay, of Tulsa, said they were voting for "change."

"We need to see Biden as president," said Bob, who described himself as "semi-retired" in the oil and gas industry. "Trump's worthless."

"I mean, I don't know how else to say it, he hasn't done a thing to..." Bob said, interrupted by Gayla, a retired teacher: "To help the middle class, anyway, we feel."

"And I certainly don't like liars," Bob added.

Priscilla Dick, a supermarket manager from Broken Arrow, was taking photos of the lines with her phone Thursday morning. She said she had hoped to vote that day, but that she did not get in line because she did not think she had time to make it through and cast her vote before a noon appointment.

"But I'll definitely be back tomorrow," Dick said.

Early voting is scheduled to continue at ONEOK Field on Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. More information is available at the Tulsa County Election Board website and Facebook page.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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