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Despite Pandemic, Oregon Voters Cast Record Ballots In May Primary

Primary election voting in Bend, May 19, 2020.
Primary election voting in Bend, May 19, 2020.

More than 1.3 million Oregonians cast ballots in the May 19 primary. Because of the state's system of mail-based voting, elections here were relatively unaffected by the pandemic.

According to final results released Thursday, voter turnout exceeded the old primary record – set four years ago – by more than 100,000 votes.

For the last four years, Oregon has also been automatically registering voters using drivers license data.  That's led to a big increase in the number of registered voters, from just under 2.3 million in 2016 to more than 2.8 million now. Some of the increase is also due to population growth. 

The percentage of registered voters who cast ballots actually dropped from 54% in 2016 – when Democrats had a heated presidential primary in Oregon – to 47.1% last month. In fact, Oregon had a relative dearth of high-profile statewide contests this year.  And neither major party had a contested presidential contest here.

Many states were forced to delay their primaries because of the pandemic, and they’ve been struggling to provide more mail balloting.  Congressional Democrats have been fighting for more funding to help states boost mail voting.  President Donald Trump has resisted that, charging that the mail voting is prone to widespread corruption, although he hasn’t produced any evidence of that.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.