While turnout for Tuesday’s special election on Measure 101 is low, it looks as if proponents might be getting their voters out.
The latest ballot return numbers from the Oregon Election Department showed that Democrats have cast about 94,000 more ballots than Republicans.
That’s an encouraging sign for supporters of the measure to impose taxes on hospitals and insurers as a way to help pay for Medicaid. Oregon’s implementation of the federal program provides health coverage to more than 1 million people.
Patty Wentz, spokeswoman for the pro-Measure 101 campaign, said there’s been a “progressive wave” around the country in opposition to attempts by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to abolish the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else.
“A lot of voters that we talk to understand that this is just another version of repeal and replace,” said Wentz, arguing that the Measure 101 taxes are needed to protect health coverage for Oregonians.
State Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, led the petition campaign to refer Measure 101 to voters and is now urging a “no” vote.
Parrish said she’s talked to many Democrats who oppose Measure 101 and is hopeful that will help lead to its defeat Tuesday. She argues that there are better ways for the state to pay its share of Medicaid costs.
Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their ballots. It’s too late to mail them in, but Oregonians can drop them off at county elections offices or at official dropboxes.
The latest figures show that about 28 percent of voters have returned their ballots. That puts it on track to be one of the lower turnouts for a statewide mail ballot election in Oregon.
Parrish blamed the relatively low turnout in part on the unusual election date, charging that Democrats wanted to “suppress the vote” by having a special election in January. Legislative Democrats said they wanted any referendum to be held before the February session so they could come up with an alternative approach to funding Medicaid if Measure 101 is defeated.
Democrats maintain a wide registration lead over Republicans in Oregon. As a result, they’ve been casting many more ballots merely by matching the turnout percentages of Republicans.
So far, about 45 percent of votes have been cast by Democrats, 33 percent by Republicans and the rest by a mixture of non-affiliated and third-party voters.
Supporters have been able to mount an expensive media campaign urging a yes vote on the measure to keep the taxes. Disclosure records show supporters have raised about $3.3 million compared to just over $100,000 by opponents.