Do Oregon Voters Really Find Election Day So Special?

In a recent editorial, the Oregonian asserted that more citizens are choosing to wait to turn in their ballots until Election Day. The piece claims that this behavior reveals a sort of synthesis of the pro- and anti-mail ballot arguments rolled into one: Election Day traditions are able to survive even while no one is forced to follow them.

This is a nice idea, and I have no doubt there are still quite a few citizens who vote on Election Day because that’s how their parents did it. But the data just does not support the claim that more citizens are suddenly beginning to realize the value (whether it be intrinsic—as the article asserts—or perhaps even utilitarian) of last-day voting.

Here is a graph showing the number of ballots casted on Election Day in Oregon elections from 2000-2010, as a percentage of total ballots submitted:

Percentage of Ballots Returned on Final Day of Voting

(Data found at: Oregon Secretary of State.)

Since 2000, the level of last-day voting has decreased a few times, but has regularly hovered around 25%. It is not that I think the Oregonian is plain wrong—I have no reason to doubt that a portion of the individuals voting on Election Day do so because their parents did the same—but these numbers do not reveal any sort of aggregate chance in behavior.

Notice much change? It is not that I think the Oregonian is utterly false—the 20-odd % that still chooses to vote on election day can make those decisions for whatever reason they want—but there is no trend in the last 10 years that seems to show Oregon citizens as changing their behavior in any aggregate way.

Now, the Oregonian may have a hunch about this new trend, but it will take additional research and evidence to convince me otherwise.

BTW – this post is not written by your regularly EVIC blogger, Paul. My name is Jacob Canter, and I’m the new RA for Paul. I’ll be adding to the blog every so often, hopefully providing something interesting to look at and think about. Feel free to ask questions and requests posts in the future.