More than 63 percent of registered Democrats have voted in this year's primary, state elections officials just reported. That makes turnout among Oregon Democrats the highest in any of the past nine presidential primaries, beating the 61 percent turnout set back in 1976 when Idaho Sen. Frank Church was battling Southerner Jimmy Carter for the nomination. (Church won Oregon, but Carter won the nomination, and the presidency.)
kentucky, by the way, is expecting a 25%-30% turnout.
An election-day voter stampede is expected to propel Oregon's highest primary turnout in 20 years, state officials projected Monday.
More than 800,000 voters cast ballots in the vote-by-mail election as of Monday, and elections officials predicted another 250,000 will drop off their ballots before today's 8 p.m. deadline.
Secretary of State Bill Bradbury estimates a turnout between 50 percent and 60 percent.
It's safe to say it will be large for a primary, but not for a general election," said Scott Moore, a Bradbury spokesman.
Spurred by the rivalry between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Oregon's 866,700 registered Democrats could set a record for primary participation. As of Monday, 52 percent of Democrats had cast ballots, compared with 38 percent of 672,600 registered Republicans and only 19 percent of 482,495 unaffiliated and other voters.
In 1968, 72 percent of Oregon Democrats cast ballots in a hotly contested race between eventual winner Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy.
That was the year nearly 73 percent of all Oregon voters cast ballots in the primary, a record not threatened by today's vote.
Presidential elections typically get the biggest turnouts. In the November 2004 race between President Bush and John Kerry, more than 71 percent of Oregon voters cast ballots.
The Clinton-Obama race has generated big numbers for months -- 23 states have broken records for voter turnout.
Political analysts say conventional wisdom doesn't hold in such an unconventional year. For the first time in 40 years, Oregon votes are crucial in determining the Democratic nominee for president.
After years of declining voter participation, record-breaking turnouts across the country in the 2008 primary election are fanning hope for increased participation in democracy.
"Just eight to 12 years ago, we were having a real crisis in American democracy," said Michael McDonald, who heads the United States Election Project at George Mason University, which collects data on voter turnout history. "If you had projected forward from 1996, there would only be one person voting today. That's why everyone is talking about voter turnout."
While election campaigns have gotten bigger and spendier in recent years, voters in many places have checked out of primary elections. Oregon voters have typically been more active than those across the country, but have waned with national declines. In the 1996 primary, for example, only 38 percent of Oregon registered voters cast a ballot.