Monday, May 14, 2018

Voter Turnout Update.

Democrats and Republicans are turning in their ballots.  Non-affiliated are not.

As of Friday morning only 16.1% of Oregon voters had turned in ballots, according to the Oregon Secretary of State. That is super low, but it is a misleading number.
Chris Walker: "pretty normal turnout."

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker has more useful numbers.  Voters with partisan contested races are the ones voting.

As of the close of business on Friday some 27% of Democrats have turned in their ballots. Some 25% of Republicans have done so. The total turnout number is much lower because only 13% of  voters registered in "All other" parties (i.e. Independent Party, Libertarian, etc.). 

Only 5.9% of Non-Affiliated voters have voted.

This is on pace to bring the turnout up to the normal levels in Jackson county and the state of Oregon: approximately 36% of registered votersMore ballots typically come in over the weekend and through Tuesday. There is a pattern to mid-year primary elections. In 2014 36% voted, 42% in 2010, and 39% in 2006.  

[Note: County Clerk Chris Walker urged me to make clear that she provided me only public numbers and not vote totals. Votes have not been counted. Nor did she offer any opinion on any race.]

Jackson County Democrats have choices to make. There are two highly contested races: a Democratic primary for Congress with seven candidates, and a State Senate district for Medford and Ashland, with four candidates. 

Referendum on Gomez
Jackson County Republicans have a referendum on Jessica GomezPolitical observers will evaluate her under-vote. Under-votes are the ballots that are turned that leave that race blank, i.e. fail to fill in the bubble next to her name. There may also be votes for her ballot-alternative, and I would consider these votes to be an alarming signal for Gomez. No minimally informed Republican voter would consider the other person on the ballot to be remotely suitable as candidate or office holder. Therefore, I evaluate Republicans who actually mark a ballot for her opponent to be sending a dramatic message of disapproval to Gomez.

Republicans have a contested primary for governor. This is bringing out the vote and it will help create enough GOP voters so that Gomez can determine whether or not she has a big problem. Knute Buehler, Sam Carpenter, and Greg Wooldridge are all running serious campaigns.  

There is a shorthand way to think of the three of them:
**Knute Bueller is the Bend-physician-Rhodes Scholar pro choice moderate, who says he can actually win in a general election.
**Sam Carpenter is the Trump-style 'Make Oregon Great Again' conservative against sanctuary cities and abortions, and for guns.
**Greg Wooldrige is the retired Blue Angel pilot who is an old-school Republican (not a Tea Party) who speaks to smaller class sizes and more infrastructure, but without raising taxes. 

Mid-term primary elections over-sample two groups of people. One is the regular, dedicated voter, i.e. people who stay informed and vote in nearly all elections, including elections for school board, transit and library bonds, etc. They make up perhaps 15-20% of the electorate. (For example, 19% of voters turned out for a May, 2017 special election for officers of a local library district.) The second group are political activists who are motivated by issues and policy. This group over-laps with the first group, and it is also 15-20% of the electorate. Because of the over-lap, the actual rock-bottom turnout is in the range of 30% for a primary election, but we will likely exceed that this year, at least among Democratic and Republican voters.

Who is helped by the oversampling of activists in the Democratic Congressional race? Candidates with strong niche-support among activists. It is probably a negative for campaigns that attempt to play catch-up with media to the broader, less engaged population. My anecdotal observation among activist Democrats is that this will advantage Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the Congressional race among activists, and advantage Jennifer Neahring among those who are less informed, but who always vote. Activists have had greater engagement with McLeod Skinner. She has been campaigning a long time with effective person to person outreach. Conversations with people who regularly vote, but who are not particularly active, suggest to me that Neahring's focused branding via media--Neahring-the-doctor--was effective. The seven candidates created too many choices, so it was confusing. "Who did you vote for," I have asked people. Some people answered they weren't sure, so they shrugged and voted for the doctor. 

Highly informed, engaged readers may read this and grimace that such a person cast a woefully under-informed ballot. An ongoing premise of this blog is that a great many people do exactly that, cast votes on negligible information, which is why superficial elements of branding and performance and appearance are so important. Neahring has the simplest brand.

Who is helped by oversampling of activists in the Democratic State Senate race? It is hard to predict. I have repeatedly encountered people who told me they voted for Kevin Stine. Perhaps his role on the Medford City Council person provided more legitimacy than I had understood. Still, in a low turnout election, it seems more probable to me that it advantages Jeff Golden.  

There is a complication. 

Conversations with local activists confirm Jeff Golden has name familiarity with almost everyone who would be considered a Democratic activist, which is generally a positive for him. He generates strong opinions, created by decades in politics, on the radio, on TV. Golden has a complex political brand, while Athena Goldberg has a newly constructed and simpler one. She has been a citizen here for years, but only in the public political eye for six months. That means she has better control of her political persona, and has been able to shape it with intention. Jeff Golden's brand got built organically over decades through the hit and miss of voiced opinions on issues that divide Democrats, including Ralph Nader, unions, PACs, timber harvest levels, Bernie Sanders, NIMBY, etc. He has some of the advantages of name-familiarity enjoyed by incumbents, but without the power of incumbency, while simultaneously having the disadvantage incumbents have of having made controversial choices.  

Net-net I suspect his having the big, established brand it is a  positive for Golden. The fact that there are four candidates mean the race is muddled and confusing for voters. Jeff Golden is the known quantity. People who want an alternative to Golden have three viable alternative choices to divide their votes.


Anonymous said...

One day to go and there's been nothing in the Mail Tribune about it for almost 2 weeks. Make you wonder if they even know there's an election tomorrow. But, lots of stuff about how to grow weed. I guess that's the important thing. Maybe their staff is too stoned to remember. Election? When? Tomorrow! Oops.

I guess this site is the go-to if you want to know anything. Thank goodness for Peter and his daily insights. He seems to be the only game in town.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, MailTribune should be renamed Pot Times

Jeanne Chouard said...

I am also disappointed with the lack of coverage on these interesting races by local media. While I don't agree with Peter's analysis on some aspects of these races, I am thankful he's putting his insights out there for folks to think about and discuss. Tommorow night will be interesting. VOTE and TURN in YOUR BALLOT--Remind all your friends and family to do the same!

Anonymous said...

No surprise re: non-affiliated voter turnout. A primary is a non-event for non-affiliated: there’s nothing there but uncontested and judge races. I expect that He Who Shall Not Be Named (by this blog) will do better than most suspect. A mood of “aw, f*** it still prevails...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Mail Tribune will publish the results tomorrow or will they wait a week?