Region's voters a reverse of state

Republicans dominate the local electorate; Dems dominate Oregon

By Lily Raff McCaulou / The Bulletin / @LilyMcCaulou

Published Nov 19, 2012 at 04:00AM

In the presidential election earlier this month, a higher percentage of Oregon Republicans than Democrats cast ballots.

A recent report by the secretary of state showed that, statewide, 86.6 percent of registered Republicans cast ballots, compared with 84.6 percent of registered Democrats. This marked a reversal from 2008, when Democrats edged out Republicans in voter turnout, 89 percent to 88 percent.

Voters who do not belong to either major political party dragged down the state's overall turnout to 81 percent this year. That was lower than the nearly 86 percent of Oregon voters who turned out in 2008.

Despite the GOP's new turnout advantage, the Democratic Party still has far more members in Oregon — 876,520, compared with the Republican Party's 687,245. So even with a lower turnout by his party, President Barack Obama managed to win the state handily, garnering 54.3 percent of the vote, compared with challenger Mitt Romney's 42.2 percent. In fact, more Democrats turned out to vote — 741,452 — than the total number of registered Republicans, 687,245.

James Foster, a political science professor at Oregon State University-Cascades Campus, speculated that Oregon's heavily Democratic voter rolls could be one reason for the difference in turnout by party.

“The fact that Oregon was not a battleground state might have depressed turnout for Obama, on the assumption that he was going to carry the state anyhow,” Foster said.

In Central Oregon, however, turnout was higher than the state average. More than 89 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats cast ballots here.

Foster said it's possible that Central Oregonians were more invested than voters in other areas in the hotly contested race for secretary of state because Bend physician Knute Buehler was the Republican nominee. Buehler lost to Democratic incumbent Kate Brown.

Here in Central Oregon, unlike the state as a whole, more voters are registered with the GOP than the Democratic Party. More Republicans cast ballots — 41,743 — than the number of Democrats registered in the tri-county area, 37,869.

A higher percentage of nonaffiliated voters in Deschutes County cast ballots than elsewhere in the state. Here, 73.2 percent of nonaffiliated voters turned out, compared with just 69.4 percent of nonaffiliated voters statewide.

Tiny Wheeler County — home to the Eastern Oregon towns of Fossil, Mitchell and Spray — had the highest turnout of any county, 91 percent. To its northeast, Umatilla County had the lowest voter turnout, 76.4 percent.