While many states struggled to conduct elections during the pandemic, Oregonians cast a record number of ballots in the May 19th primary, according to final results released Thursday.

More than 1.3 million voters participated in the primary, exceeding the old primary record – set four years ago – by more than 100,000 votes.

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Oregon’s election was

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largely untouched

by the pandemic because the state conducts its elections entirely by mail. That means voters don’t have to go out to polling places where they risk being infected with COVID-19.

Primary election voting in Bend, May 19, 2020.

Primary election voting in Bend, May 19, 2020.

Emily Cureton / OPB 

For the last four years, Oregon has also been automatically registering voters using drivers license data.  That's led to a big increase in the number of registered voters, from just under 2.3 million in 2016 to more than 2.8 million now. Some of the increase is also due to population growth.

The percentage of registered voters who cast ballots actually dropped from 54% in 2016 – when Democrats had a heated presidential primary in Oregon – to 47.1% last month. In fact, Oregon had a relative dearth of high-profile statewide contests this year.  And neither major party had a contested presidential contest here.

Many states were forced to delay their primaries because of the pandemic, and they’ve been struggling to provide more mail balloting.  Congressional Democrats have been fighting for more funding to help states boost mail voting.  President Donald Trump has resisted that, charging that the mail voting is prone to widespread corruption, although he hasn’t produced any evidence of that.

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