Slow Voting

Jeff Alworth

With eight days left to election day, 17% of Oregonians had returned their ballots in '98, and 14% in 20002.  By yesterday, however, only 13% had come in:

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury won't issue his official voter turnout projection for this election until Friday, said spokeswoman Mary Conley.  But she noted that more than 40% of the ballots cast in statewide general elections normally reach election offices in the final days before the election.
--Oregonian, October 31, 2006 (not online)

Oregonians tend to vote in pretty high numbers (69% in '02 and 74% in '98), so we could still make a late rush.  On the other hand, if the trend holds, it could be a record low turnout.  National trends suggest it is liberals who are fired up this year, while conservatives suffer a nationwide malaise.  Independents typically vote in lower numbers in midterm elections, but they're breaking toward Democrats.  But maybe Oregon conservatives have other reasons to be excited--ballot measures like 43, Mahonia Hall, Mary Starrett.  I'll enter Kari's biennial Punditology challenge, but that doesn't mean I can actually read these tea leaves.  All I can say on this All Hallow's Eve (as I chew on a morsel of chocolate) is the thought of the forces of good being overwhelmed due to apathy is the scariest thing I can imagine. 


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    It jumped 4 points today to 17%.

  • Former Salem Staffer (unverified)


    Nationally, Republicans may be holding their noses in mass, but as you know, Oregon is nothing like the rest of the country. Every conservative I talk to, be it moderate, liberterian or extreme right-wing, is hell-bent on voting in this election. Oregon Republicans are hungry, because they think Saxton is the best shot they've had at Mahonia Hall in over two decades. Conversely, the Democrats I talk to are less than enthused about Ted K and his lackluster performance in office. I'm glad that you mentioned the ballot measure, because the conservative tone that most of them have was designed to increase Republican turnout across the board--from the anti-abortion crowd (Measure 43) to the anti-tax crowd (Measures 41 and 48) to the same property rights types that turned out for Measure 37 last time (Measure 39). Nationally, Democrats may be fired up, and they should be. They have a genuine chance to reclaim a Congress that no longer represents the public. But Democrats have a lot more to lose in this state than they do nationally, and people who are fed up with the status quo, I think, are more likely to take it out on Democrats than Republicans.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    Low turnouts typically favor the GOP. This paltry turnout is troubling, particularly if it is mirrored in other states.

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    Well, it wouldn't be mirrored in other states, because everywhere else, the election hasn't started yet!

    You see, we have this vote by mail thingamabob that allows everyone to vote early.

    OK, substantive comments now... It should be noted that over time, since 1996, the number of people voting early has been shrinking consistently. Partly because people are learning to wait for late info, partly because the novelty factor has worn off...

    I can report this much. In one critical swing precinct, in one critical swing district (and no, I won't say where), the early Democratic turnout is four times higher than the early Republican turnout. After just the first week, D turnout was 6% and R turnout was 1.5%. That was enough to cause one D operative I know to run around the office hollering, "We're going to win, baby! Precinct XXXX is coming in huge for us! We're going to win!"

    Small sample, to be sure, but a very good sign.

  • Al in SE Portland (unverified)

    If other people are anything like me, they're taking their time trying to slog their way through a list of judicial candidates and figure out a few of the tougher initiatives.

  • Patty (unverified)

    To Al in SE Portland: Our Oregon has some helpful information about a few of the tougher initiatives:

    Our Oregon Voter Guide

    Here you'll find the positions of most of the progressive community on the measures.

  • Dan (unverified)

    The game isn't over until the 4th quarter has been played.

    I'd say that John Kerry has helped with R voter turn-out a bit.

    I love reading examples of people celebrating after kicking a field goal in the 1st quarter.

    The score is 3-0 libs. Un-cork the bubbly!

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    You and Karl Rove keep dreaming about the Kerry angle having an impact, Dan!

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    John points out the critical flaw in my post--85,000 ballots came in yesterday, boosting the total by a third. I'm prepared to take Kari's word as an omen of good things. Still, I would love to see a huge surge of blue ballots come flowing in over the next seven days.

  • Dan (unverified)


    In races this close, the distinguished senator from MA does have an impact.

    Moderates that here this, and realize he one the Dem nomination (was the best the Dems had) for '04, realize it sheds light on the elitist attitude of the party.

    Kerry just swift-boated himself!

    By the way, did you see the latest Zogby poll in the Gov race? Maybe this state isn't quite so blue.

    Did you hear Savage last night? He had been exhorting conservative to skip the election. After Kerry's comments, he's now urging them to vote. Savage might be a jerk, but he is influential with independent voters.

    You're a smart guy, you know that it doesn't take much of a breeze to push a game winning field goal wide and to the right.

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    How does it shed light on anything other than the fact that Kerry flubbed a line, and the White House is desperate for anything they can demagogue? Elitist attitude of the party? HAH! Which party is the one fighting for tax cuts overwhelmingly benefitting the wealthiest among us?

    I have indeed seen the Zogby poll, which of course has no bearing on the state of the election, since it is not a scientific poll. It is an internet poll, only marginally better than what you see at KATU or The O in their sidebar. The scientific polling shows Ted broadening his lead, one he has always had.

    What evidence are you using to claim that an ass like Savage is influential with independent voters? And how does exhorting conservative voters address them in the first place?

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    We're getting a press release ready, and I'll post the link here when it's up.

    Our projection is for a 2006 turnout in Oregon almost precisely what we saw in 2002, adjusted for population growth. The lines are following each other almost precisely.

    I'd amend Kari's comments in two ways. First, more than 30 states now allow some sort of early voting, and the figures look like they will constitute 30%-40% of the voters in those states. (For example, look at the secretary of state websites in TN, TX, FL, and IA, all of which post early voting stats).

    On Kari's second comment, there is definite evidence of a novelty effect after 1996. We had a lot of early voters and then the figures declined. But they have not followed the pattern that he describes, where more and more voters hold their ballots.

    The figures are pretty clear--the level of early voting responds to the campaign environment. (See Figure 3 in this paper ).

  • dan (unverified)

    The wealthiest amoung us?

    Come on TJ, even you are aware that the majority of households have equity ownership.

    What do you think funds your generous, taxpayer funded PERS investments? Tax receipts being invested into stocks and stock funds, that's what.


    What makes you an expert on polling? Just curious, you blow hard on the subject. Does this mean you've critiqued the exit polls that have been so wrong in the past (the basis of bogus left wing elections complaints in the past).


    What evidence do I have that Savage is influential.

    <h1>1) his audience is large in sheer size</h1> <h1>2) Liberals here in PDX tried to get KXL to drop him a few years back. This would only happen if the feared he might have some type of influence .</h1>

    He, Rush, and Lars have more influence then Hair (Chapter 11) America could ever dream of.


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    Dan-- equity ownership is but one piece of the puzzle. Income, estate and capital gains taxes also greatly favor the wealthy in terms of revenue used to fund it. Secondly, no one in his right mind equates holding some form of an equity as part of a massive set of funds, with holding tens or hundreds of thousands of actual shares that produce dividends taxed at low rates.

    I'm glad you asked what makes me an expert on polling. I have 10+ years professional experience in demography, probability and statistics, including several years at VCU's Survey Research Laboratory working on The Commonwealth Poll, a political survey for the state of Virginia founded by Scott Keeter, now the Assistant Director of Pew Research and an internationally known political polling expert.

    The "answers" to my question about Savage contain no actual information relevant to figuring his influence on independent voters.

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    the new daily report is out--23%. Big jump from Multno; about 75% more ballots on the 31st compared to the 30th. Looks like we're running basically a day behind 2002's results--we're hitting the mark that 2002 did one day previous to the compare date.

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    Posted by: Dan | Nov 1, 2006 12:46:16 PM

    Which specific races will Kerry's bitch-slap of Bush will throw to the Rs?

  • Chuck Paugh (unverified)

    I voted promptly upon receiving my ballot this year. I must note, however, that I found myself not voting a straight Democratic Party ticket this year.

    Where did I digress? I did not vote for my incumbent Democratic Party state representative, Mary Nolan, because of her lack of attentiveness to me as one of her constituents. I called, emailed, and faxed her office a total of 10 times in 2006 without a single reply from herself or any of her staff members. I even went as far as contacting the Oregon Democratic Party leadership about her lack of attentiveness to her constituents in July 2006, yet she still refused to reply to any communications sent to her office.

    Party affiliation or not, if an elected official does not have the courtesy to respond to her constituents, then she does not deserve to maintain her elected office.

  • paul (unverified)

    Here's what we wrote in a press release on Oregon turnout. Full document is here

    It’s been Election Day in Oregon for eight days now. For more than a decade statewide elections in Oregon have been conducted entirely by mail. It is clear, when compared to the 2002 and 2004 contest, that early voting is not higher in Oregon, in contrast to what is occurring in states such as Tennessee, Florida, Colorado, and Texas.

    Early voting increases rapidly when states relax their requirements—such as adopting no excuse absentee balloting—and make early voting convenient. However, these new voting methods do not appear to have much of an impact on turnout, especially once the systems have been in place for asignificant length of time, as they have been in Oregon.

    <h2>Instead, campaign spending, voter mobilization, and the state of the times drive turnout. In Oregon in 2006, A lot more money is being spent on GOTV this year, but because there are not many ballot measures energizing the base—such as gay marriage or abortion—turnout will be similar to 2002.</h2>

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