Wednesday, October 29


Five Thirty Eight - Uniquely among the 50 states, Oregon conducts the entirety of its voting by mail, which among other things can provide early clues as to what the electoral battlefield might look like elsewhere in the country. Surprisingly, perhaps, turnout is down this year in Oregon. According to statistics compiled by the state's Elections Division, the state has received 522,188 ballots through the first seven days of its early voting window. This compares with 645,473 ballots received during the first seven days of 2004 -- a 19 percent decline.

There are many possible reasons why turnout has been sluggish in Oregon. The state, a hotly-contested battleground in 2004, has been largely ignored by the presidential candidates this year. But also, Oregon has been subject to a relatively nasty and senate race, and there is some feeling among voting officials that Oregonians are turning in their ballots later and later each year as they familiarize themselves with the early voting process (in which case, turnout should eventually catch up to its norms).

More importantly, however, the counties most culpable for the depressed turnout appear to be those that voted substantially for George W. Bush in 2004. For example, in Multnomah County, which is largely coincident with the reliably liberal Portland, turnout is down 16 percent as compared with the comparable period in 2004. Downstate in more rural Douglas County, meanwhile, where Bush received two-thirds of the vote in 2004, turnout is 27 percent off-pace.

We can look on this a bit more systematically, focusing at the 16 Oregon counties where population exceeds 50,000. In all 16 counties, turnout is behind its 2004 pace. However, the counties experiencing the steepest declines are mostly red counties, whereas the drop-off has been milder in the blue portions of the state:


At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Oregon first went to all mail in voting, I wasn't happy about it. But now I feel much better about it, because vote by mail requires paper ballots, so recounts can be conducted when needed.


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