A week ago, Bill Bradbury predicted voters would set the modern record for turnout in Oregon. But so far, it hasn't played out that way. After seven days of voting, only 24% of eligible voters had returned their ballots, compared to 30% in '04. So what gives?
Nate Silver does a quickie analysis and concludes:
More importantly, however, the counties most culpable for the depressed turnout appear to be those that voted substantially for George W. Bush in 2004. For example, in Multnomah County, which is largely coincident with the reliably liberal Portland, turnout is down 16 percent as compared with the comparable period in 2004. Downstate in more rural Douglas County, meanwhile, where Bush received two-thirds of the vote in 2004, turnout is 27 percent off-pace.
Looking at this sub-sample suggest to Nate that the GOP base isn't turning out. (He has cool tables and graphs.) But though I love his analysis, this is a weird set-up. Why select just populous counties? Everyone knows that the way red Oregon balances out blue is by the many rural counties. In 2004, Kerry won Oregon by carrying just 8 of 36 counties. Instead, why not look at all counties?
When you break it down and compare turnout in Kerry-voting and Bush-voting counties you see ... no real effect. Kerry-voting counties have returned 24.5% of their ballots (261,191 returned ballots of 1,067,597 registered voters) as compared to 23.6% in the Bush counties (260,997 of 1,104,158).
But wait! Isn't it true that there are more Dems now than there were in '04, and couldn't these new Dems account for the early votes in places like Wheeler County (34% returned). Yes. There are actually many scenarios one might paint to keep alive the intensity argument. But the empirical evidence is scant.
Jeff Mapes suggests either the lack of a hot-button ballot measure or indecision in the Senate race might have suppressed enthusiasm. Could be. My pet theories are these: 1) although there is great interest in the election this year, Oregonians are not getting the kind of attention we got in '00 and '04, and are therefore haven't stirred ourselves to vote, and/or 2) the polls so strongly suggest an Obama win that voters are complacent about getting their ballots in.
Surely you have some pet theories. Let's hear them.