According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, the number of nonaffiliated voters in the state has increased by nearly 60,000 since the beginning of this year.
As of last month, there were 951,908 nonaffiliated voters in Oregon — an increase of almost 7% since this past January.
The increase of nonaffiliated voters is largely due to the state’s “motor voter” law, passed in 2016, which automatically registers eligible Oregonians as nonaffiliated voters when they register with the Oregon DMV.
“There are at least 300,000 new registrants since 2016 because of OMV [the Oregon Motor Voter Act],” said Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College. “And 80% or more of these did not respond to a postcard allowing them to affiliate.”
Oregon joined several other states with similar voter registration laws — but unlike other states, which ask people if they want to opt in or out of voter registration, Oregon’s law is automatic. People are automatically registered, and are later given the choice to join a specific party or opt out entirely.
Still, nonaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans and are the second largest voting group in the state behind Democrats — with only about 17,000 fewer voters.
Comparatively, Oregon now has 968,969 registered Democrats and 701,513 registered Republicans.
Unlike nonaffiliated voters, the number of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and other affiliated voting groups have all decreased since the start of 2019.
Registered Democrats in the state have decreased by more than 7,000 voters since January. The number of Republicans has decreased by almost 5,000.
From 2012 to 2015, before the Oregon Motor Voter Act, the number of nonaffiliated voters was also decreasing similarly to other parties, according to data from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
Though they make up almost a third of voters in the state, nonaffiliated voters can’t vote in Oregon’s primary elections. Only those registered as a Democrat or a Republican can vote in partisan races.
Correction: An earlier version of the article misidentified Paul Gronke’s role with Reed College.