Turnout in OR: Ranking the Counties

Oregon ballots are being returned in droves. As the Oregonian reported earlier today, one in five voters have already returned their ballots. The piece briefly mentions that return raters are higher in smaller counties, but doesn’t go any further. So, I quickly rank ordered the counties with respect to return rates for democrats, republicans, and all voters:

OR1028What to make of this? Not only do the small counties have the highest turnout thus far. The largest counties are also near the bottom in turnout rates.  Washington county, the second largest in the state, is second lowest in all three categories. The largest county in the state, Multnomah county, is ranked 31st for democrats and overall turnout, and 27th for republicans.

What explains this relationship between county size and initial turnout rate? Here’s a thought: The largest counties include the largest cities in the state–Multnomah county houses Portland, Washington county, Hilsboro. There are higher proportions of young and minority voters in cities, and those are the voters less likely to turn out during midterms. That would, at least, partially explain the current low rates of turnout in those two counties.

This can’t wholly explain the result, though, since most minority and young voters are democrats, and republican rates are low as well. Perhaps it’s just due to the sheer number of voters in the large v. small counties.  Fewer voters need to return their ballots in Gilliam county for 40% of their ballots to be returned.

Whatever the explanation,we have seven more days of voting, and how the numbers change over the next week will determine who and what wins this November.