A Very Blue Oregon

Carla Axtman

I have often heard it said that Oregon elections are controlled by the whims of Portland. Perhaps in some elections, that's the case. But not in the 2012 General Presidential Election.

A perusal of the county by county results posted at the Secretary of State's website tells the story.

Obama won 910,586 votes in Oregon compared to Romney's 717,409. Subtracting the totals for Multnomah County for both candidates (256,925 and 70,958, respectively), Obama still comes out ahead with 653,661 to Romney's 646,451. A lot of Obama's muscle outside of Multnomah County appears to have come from Washington County, who gave Obama a 36k lead over Romney. Even Clackamas County, unfriendly to Dems down ticket, voted in larger numbers for Obama.

That's not to say that there isn't still a political divide in Oregon. Oregon's mostly rural 2nd Congressional District sent Republican Greg Walden back to Congress in a walk. The district (which encompasses part or all of 19 counties) voted in large share for Romney. Those counties gave Romney 177,125 votes--125,317 for Obama. But those are totals for NINETEEN counties. Tiny numbers relative to the rest of the state.

Other stuff I found interesting whilst looking over these numbers:

957 people are registered to vote in Wheeler County. 871 of them voted. That's a 91.01% turnout. The county in Oregon with the lowest turnout % is Yamhill, with 55.12%.

In Clackamas County, Tea Party bully John Ludlow won the Clackamas County Chair race with 75,627 votes, or 52.2%. The other conservative, Tootie Smith, won the open county commission seat 75,759 or 52.5%. Obama won the county with 94,013 votes while Romney received 87,551. Clackamas County reports that 188,242 total ballots were cast. I'm not a field person, but that seems like a massive under vote in the county commission races.

Like I said previously, progressives have A TON of work to do in Clackamas County, but I'm wondering how much of this could be solved with some aggressive down ticket GOTV. Thoughts?

Comments

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    Thanks Carla, that's great news, overall. Time for me to stop talking about 2000, when the entire state outside of Multnomah County went 75% for Bush, while Multnomah County went 75% for Gore. We. Are. Oregonians. (Except. For. Clackaback.)

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    With all due respect to the excellent citizens of Wheeler county and our great friend Ted Wheeler, why does Wheeler county continue to exist as a county? It cannot possibly provide anything approximating county services with only 1,000 voting adults.

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      As I understand it, Wheeler County is not named for Ted Wheeler, or his ancestors - though the City of Wheeler, Oregon (in Tillamook County) actually is.

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      So, by your definition, a county ONLY exists to serve it's citizens? I am so glad you are not in charge of anything important..... Could you please hop on your bicycle and take a trip to Wheeler County and ask those folks what they think of your idea? Please, take granola bars, there are no World Markets or Trader Joe's over there.

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    Groan. We have a lot of work to do in Yamhill County.

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      We are here for ya! All five county's in 1st CD must keep up the work. We all have local elections and primary (2014) will be here before we know it. Meanwhlle, we must recruit those BLUE people who are willing and able to run. That is: city councils and on up the ticket.

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    In all of the Portland suburbs (Clackamas, Washington, and Clark), progressives generally do a terrible job running aggressive down ballot (e.g. local government) campaigns with professional fundraising, a willingness to do hard contrasting campaigns that point out to voters the flaws of their opponents, and real field campaigns (door-to-door, phone banking, internet). Whatever lessons are being learned in Federal and state legislative politics are not being transferred to local government. This played out big time this year in Clackamas and Clark Counties.

    That needs to change.

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      I would argue Jonathan the hardest of those three components for down ballot candidates is field. Getting people excited about local commission races, enough to go door to door is extraordinarily tough. This is where the gerrymandering of our Congressional districts actually hurts our local candidates. A robust, competitive house race will attract all sorts of DCCC and DNC as well as state coordinated resources. Those resources can be applied to turn out for all down ballot candidates. A lone campaign staffer on a local race simply doesn't have the ability to that.

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        Yeah, it's worth noting just how HUGE these races are. A countywide race is magnitudes larger in scope than a legislative race - and yet gets a tiny slice of the funding.

        Other than OLCV (to Jonathan's credit) and some labor unions, there aren't a lot of organizations or donors interested in suburban local races. And even for those groups, the investment tends to be smaller.

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          A very good point, Kari. And I think folks need to contemplate Peter Nordbye's race pretty hard, especially given what he did with his resources and his particular appeal. But so far, Democratic Party and union activists I've talked to don't get it. They really don't.

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    I wonder if President Obama's call for early voting may have created negative coattails? When I was on the doors in East County I met one young Latina who was interested in Chris Gorsek but said, "too late, I just voted for the president and turned my ballot in." Having people say "I've only been paying attention to the president race until now" was common.

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    Y'know, I don't think pros have fully mastered the art of the mail-in campaign. Perhaps GOTV needs to be looked at in a consistent, sustainable manner from the point ballots first get voted...instead of getting slate cards out late, get them out before voting starts. Then perhaps plan on a secondary and even tertiary run as folks vote in the following week.

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      I'll disagree, Joyce. Campaigns now have historical data about when particular voters actually cast their ballot. If you're like me, and always vote on the final day, then you're likely to get dropped in a late-breaking mail universe. But if you're a first-weekend voter, you're likely to get dropped into the early-voting mail universe.

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        Then why weren't slate cards ready to distribute BEFORE ballots were mailed out? Why weren't waves of slate cards planned? It's not all about mail campaigns, it's about grassroots field organizing. I just don't see that happening.

        Look, I was a grassroots organizer in the 80s and early 90s. I've been on the periphery of actual campaign organization since then. And if I can see that hole, why aren't other people seeing it?

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          Joyce,

          Multnomah County Democrats Slate Card Campaign was a very well-thought-out and planned campaign. We've been doing this for several years and have been tweaking as we go along. One thing we've determined is if we give the slate cards out before the ballots drop, people simply toss them along with the rest of the election mailers. By dropping the cards starting the day ballots are mailed out to voters our cards hit the doors right when the voters are first starting to vote. We've had many voters tell us that, after receiving the cards for several years, that they'll wait until they receive the card to vote.

          Slate cards are very effective in Multnomah County. Over 95,000 were dropped this election cycle.

          I encourage you to address your concerns about the Slate Card process to Multnomah County Democrats Chair KC Hanson at [email protected] We are always looking for feedback.

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            ...and I'm listening.

            One thing I'd add is that it takes hundreds of volunteers to pull off the slate card drop. While the ultimate goal is to hit all Democratic doors in the County ON the weekend of the ballot drop, we haven't got there... yet. But 95k - even over the 2 1/2 weeks prior to E-Day isn't too awful. I am not sure any other campaign made that much contact, albeit via lit., in that short of a time span.

            Can you tell this is my favorite project?

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      early voting was key to the Obama victory in swing states. in Iowa, people could vote by mail (after sending in an application, which OFA & the Iowa Dems made sure "our" people got) or in person until Nov 5. every person that voted early was one more person we didn't have to chase & one more chance to get another voter to the polls on Election Day. the Rs never stood a chance, and it did help Dems win - because in Iowa, you can fill in the circle to vote a straight party ticket. and many did.

      if early voting calls hurt Oregon, then it's up to us to fix that. because winning the presidency was the most important thing in 2012. with Pres Rmoney, anything else we might have won would have been hollow.

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    Carla your Yamhill county number seemed awfully low. A quick check of the SOS website indicates Yamhill had an 82.3% turnout. What gives?

    http://oregonvotes.org/doc/history/nov62012/Ballot_Return_Wksht_G12.pdf

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      Darrel:

      I pulled it from the SOS website here:

      http://www.oregonvotes.gov/results/2012G/1577763306.html

      Yamhill County, according to this spreadsheet, is at 55.12% turnout.

      Maybe the spreadsheet I found has old numbers..?

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    Ah! 'Tis the job of this other Carla, aka KC, to expound on the virtues of Multnomah County! (I can skip the full disclosure part here, right?)

    I DO think bragging rights are warranted statewide - it does take ALL of us. But without the huge MultCo turnout, both Brad's and Kate's races would have been upside down. Kate's race in MultCo was 216k to 82k for Knute; the 134k difference exceeded the statewide difference (inc. MultCo) by 13k votes. Brad's race was more notable; his MultCo margin was over 105k, but statewide it was only 69k.

    The Tri-County area also took back 4 House seats, and we held Laurie Monnes-Anderson's Senate seat in Gresham. The GOP had targeted her race for a take-back. Her opponent, Scott Hansen, had received $25,000 from the Oregon Transformation Project (think Stimson Lumber, the rising star $ player in GOP politics, and the GOP pal in Clackamas County).

    Ballot Measure 85 received a rousing win statewide as Oregonians clearly said yes to education funding, even if it is only a starting point to reignite robust support for our public schools. Ballot measure 84, the Mannix measure pitying the poor millionaire offspring lost statewide by 2000 votes, but was DRUBBED in Mutlnomah County by 124k. Here's hoping that shellacking will keep it from future ballots. All in all, a very good, Blue Oregon for both Dems AND Democratic policies. (Altho I personally wished we would have matched our friends in CO and WA on the pot initiative)

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    Actually, Carla, the undervote in the Clackamas County Chair and Commission races was low by recent standards, not high.

    Last few elections the undervote was around 35%. (That is, 35% of the received ballots did not cast a vote in the races.)

    This year it was about 24%. That's more than a 30% reduction in the undervote.

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      Rob:

      Taking your word for it that this is the case, that's an even more alarming thing.

      Undervotes like that definitely demonstrate a need for much greater GOTV for down ticket races. I appreciate you providing that info.

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    By my count, taking out the most populous counties: Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Lane for both candidates and you get: 416,707 Romney 345,975 Obama Romney wins by 50% or more in 26 counties statewide and Obama wins 10 counties by 50% or more. The 10 counties for Obama (4 were at 50.1-6% just over the 50%+1) were: Benton Clackamas Clatsop Columbia Hood River Lane Lincoln Multnomah Tillamook Washington So what do we learn from this? Not much but I had fun crunching the numbers! As for the person above disparaging Wheeler County with 1,000 residents? You my friend are an elitist snob! I am lobbying for a new game show on tv that's perfect for you! "Survivor: Eastern Oregon". We would pluck 10 lucky contestants from the Pearl District. Take away their smart phone, laptop, bicycle, that wear little knitted hat, grande latte, and any means with which to communicate with Portland, drop them in the middle of say Harney County (or for our snob friend above, Wheeler County) then film them for 39 days as they try their dangdest to figure out how to survive.
    We have a clear divide in Oregon. Though I am not one of the nutjobs that wants to "secede" from the US, I would like to ask politely that Portland "secede" from Oregon. Just attach yourself to the bridge over I-5 and become the best part of Washington state. They'd love it, you'll love it, Oregon will love it! We'll let you visit, no charge. I know, I know, how will we survive without your tax money? Right? No problem I got it all figured out. We are going to a toll bridge at I-5 and I-84 for all incoming traffic. That's the ticket, YA! I am so dang smart! Off to see the producers of my new show.

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      Well, 19 of the 36 counties in our state are in ONE Congressional district, which speaks to the sparse population. Square miles don't vote. People do. And even if you take Portland out of the equation, Obama still wins.

      It seems convoluted to me to infer that 26 sparsely populated counties ought to decide how the other 10 much more populated counties should vote. Or more correctly, that the sparsely populated square miles of Oregon should decide what policy ought to be for the much more populated areas of the state.

      I'm not sure if conservatives have always been about lording authoritarianism over the rest of us or if this is a relatively new phenomenon, but I suspect if they invoked the golden rule that this would make them red faced with shame.

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      Bill, you picked on the wrong guy for your anti-Portland rant. I am a combat veteran with airborne wings. My parents grew up on the prairie and my wife grew up on a dairy. I have no problems at all in living in the country.

      My point was that 1,000 people cannot pay for the infrastructure that a county administration requires. The result is inefficient government which means some taxpayer is paying too much. Something you should agree with.

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      Uh, Bill, you do realize that the intersection of I-5 and I-84 is smack dab in the middle of Portland, don't you?

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      Bill, I'm sure that many folks who think they'd do great at your proposed game would quickly decide against it if the following rule was added: No motorized vehicles.

      It's much harder to be a tough guy if you have to get everywhere under your own power.

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        And this urban girl raised rural is more than willing to bet that a good chunk of Portlanders are former rural residents...I know a lot of former rural Oregonians who now live in Portland. But it's easier for some ruralites to fantasize about how pathetic city folk would be in the setting than to realize just how many urbanites have a rural background.

        And Michael, I'd do just fine in this game as long as I'm allowed to have a horse or two. Might even do better than some of the ruralites.

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      The "divide" is exacerbated by people who relish in the "divide". We're all Oregonians, Bill. While we may not agree on Party Platform, we all want health communities and prosperous, healthy, educated citizens.

      The Party in the minority is always yapping about the divide. When I grew up in Oklahoma, it was Dems nattering incessantly about the "divide". Here in Oregon, it's those on the right side of the political spectrum. It's all BS and I've found that 99% of the time if I sit down over with someone over a soda (sorry to break your "elitist" bubble but I don't drink lattes), we have more in common than differences.

      Talking about "divides" is a handy way to blame others for problems rather than coming together to solve them. It's lazy, intellectually and physically...no matter what Party you belong to.

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    Getting back to the point of Carla's post, determining how to increase voter turnout in down ballot races. It is very telling to look at a comparison of elections over time, and see the level of undervotes. Given Rob's comment above about this election having a lower undervote than the previous election, I decided to look a little further back. (Looking at undervotes for the Clackamas County Commission races, because of differences in how some elections are reported, I lumped write-in votes into the undervote) 2012 Undervote = 23.1% & 23.4% 2010 Undervote = 34.4% & 35.9% 2008 Undervote = 34.7% & 35.7% 2006 Undervote = 7.5% 2004 Undervote = 11.3% & 13.3% 2002 Undervote = 12.7% 2000 Undervote = 15.5% & 21.1%

    There is a distinct difference in the undervote after the 2006 elections. It just happens that 2006 was the last year that Clackamas County commission positions were partisan races. It would appear from this brief review that the lack of a Partisan identifier on the ballot in 2008 and later, made it more difficult for voters to decide which candidate to vote for. 2006 and 2002 also had three way races for the County Commission, which may have given voters who otherwise would leave the race blank a third choice to vote for.

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    Good time for a recount in Clackamas County, examining a hand sampling of ballots, one by one. Probably recount on the county chair race.

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    Is it possible to obtain the Presidential election results per city- or at least the larger cities in Oregon?

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      After the election is certified more detailed results will be available. Much will be available online via county elections websites. Elections are certified 20 days after the Elction - so Nov. 26.

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    http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/123671-duh!-poll-says-most-voters-unhappy

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