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Oregon Turnout: Record High Numbers But Not Record High Percentage


Trays of returned ballots at the Marion County Elections office in Salem.

Trays of returned ballots at the Marion County Elections office in Salem.

Chris Lehman/OPB

More voters cast a ballot than ever before in this month’s election in Oregon.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced Thursday that just over 2 million voters took part. Until now, the highest number of votes cast in Oregon was just over 1.8 million during the 2008 presidential election that put Barack Obama in office.  

While the raw number of ballots cast set a record, the turnout percentage did not. This year’s turnout was 78.9 percent. That’s been exceeded several times, most recently during the 2012 presidential election.

This year was also the lowest turnout in a presidential year since 1996.

The lower turnout could be in part due to the state’s new automatic voter registration law, which signed up nearly 270,000 people this year during visits to the DMV. The Secretary of State’s Office will announce next week how many of those automatically registered voters actually cast a ballot. 

Turnout was higher for Republicans, at 88.1 percent, than for Democrats, at 86.6 percent. But the Democrats’ wide edge in voter registrations meant that more than 200,000 additional Democratic votes were tallied than Republican votes.

The Independent Party, which entered this year’s contest as a “major party” for the first time, saw 77.7 percent of its members cast a ballot. Among voters unaffiliated with a political party turnout was 59.3 percent, far lower than the overall turnout rate.

Harney County had the highest turnout rate statewide, with 85.2 percent. The county with the lowest turnout was Umatilla, with 72.5 percent. The state’s most populated county, Multomah, saw a 79.9 percent turnout rate.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office lists voter turnout for each general election since 1960 on its website.

That list shows that statewide turnout reached 86.51 percent in 1960, when Oregonians chose Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy. More recently, turnout reached 86.48 percent in 2004, when state voters chose John Kerry over George W. Bush.

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