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Special Election Turnout Leaves Much To Be Desired

As of Tuesday morning, 38 percent of the state's registered voters had returned their ballots. Optimistic elections officials hope that number will spike to closer to 50 percent by the end of the day.

Central Oregon correspondent Ethan Lindsey reports that for pollsters, geography comes into play on election day.

Multnomah County voters oughta be ashamed. The most populated county in the state also has the lowest voter turnout thus far. As of this afternoon, just 36 percent of Multnomah registered voters have made their voice heard.

Pollsters expect that number to jump by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, fifty percent of voters have cast their ballots in the least populated Oregon County, Wheeler.

Then again, there are only 890 voters in all of Wheeler County.

Dave Hunnicutt is the president of Oregonians in Action. His property rights group has reportedly spent more than $2.3 million trying to defeat Measure 49.

That's the measure that limits the development allowed under the property compensation initiative, Measure 37.  It changes the process for reviewing claims, and addresses the measure's legal uncertainties.

Hunnicutt says that Wheeler County, and most of eastern Oregon, are strongly Republican and would be expected to vote against Measure 49.

So does the higher turnout in eastern counties give him cause for optimism?

In a word, nope.

Dave Hunnicutt: “In some of the eastern Oregon counties, you've got to drive a lot further to find somewhere to turn in your ballot. What we've seen over the years is that turnout trends are usually a lot higher at the start in the eastern Oregon counties. Cuz those folks get their ballots, turn around, vote, and turn them back in.”

Hunnicutt says he expects, when everything is said and done, turnout will be about 50 percent across the board.

Kathleen Marston is the Jefferson County Clerk - she runs the elections office in Madras.

She says she expects turnout in her county to be above 57 percent.

Kathleen Marston: “Well, for a special election like this, the turnout isn't generally all the great. I believe its usually around 30 or 40 percent. So the turnout I would say for this election is better than it has been for past special elections.”

She says that's because Jefferson County has more at stake from Measure 49's property rights changes.

At the Deschutes County elections office, in Bend, a handful of last-minute voters are dropping off their ballots and a group of volunteers counts the ballots.

County clerk Nancy Blankenship says her turnout may end up below 50 percent.

She says the two state measures have drawn the most attention.

But with counting software on her computer, she can see that local, special district votes, including one this year in the town of Alfalfa, can sometimes be a big deal.

Nancy Blankenship: “Yeah see the district that has the levy, they're at 51-percent. So that does make a little bit of a difference. And since it was a levy, it needed 50 percent. Then the next thing will be if they voted yes or no for it.”

The town of Alfafa wants voters to approve a fee for homeowners, to maintain the roads.

There are also special votes in Culver, Baker City, Eugene, Springfield, Multnomah County and some in Lake Oswego and Oregon City.

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