Oregon voters increasingly shun major parties

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon voters have increasingly shed their political labels since the last time they helped select a president.

Since 2008, Democratic and Republican registration has fallen, while the ranks of Independent and unaffiliated voters have swelled.

Four years ago, 76 percent of Oregon voters were members of the two major political parties, compared with 71 percent now, according to an Associated Press analysis of September data from the Secretary of State's Office. Both major parties have fewer members now than four years ago, even though total voter registration has grown.

The Democratic Party had 854,000 registered voters in September, 7 percent fewer than four years ago. Republicans saw a 2 percent decline to 672,000 voters.

A hard-fought Democratic primary and enthusiasm for Barack Obama among new voters drove Democratic registration way up in 2008, said Trent Lutz, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon. But this election cycle is different, he said. There's less enthusiasm among Democrats, and there's no U.S. Senate election or other high-profile race to draw the attention of voters or outside interest groups.

"We haven't had that same energy level that was there in 2008," Lutz said. "We're building it back."

Greg Leo, a spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party, said the rise in unaffiliated voters is a reflection of an independent streak among Oregon voters.

"It's not a terrible concern," he said of the smaller number of registered Republicans. "We would like to see more people register as Republicans and we think that as we win some of these races in 2012 that our registration numbers will go up."

To register for this year's election, forms must be postmarked by Tuesday. Anyone with an Oregon driver's license or state-issued identification card can register online until 11:59 p.m.

Here are some other facts about Oregon's electorate:

  • Voters leaving major parties aren't embracing smaller ones. Excluding the Independent Party, Oregon's minor parties have picked up just 340 voters.

  • Democrats lost voters in every county. Their steepest declines were in Gilliam and Lake counties, where they lost a fifth of Democrats, although there are fewer than 1,000 Democrats in each county.
  • Republicans lost voters in about two-thirds of counties in the state, most significantly in Multnomah, where a decline of 5,000 Republicans amounted to a 7 percent drop. The GOP's sharpest increase was in Crook County, which added 252 Republicans, a 5 percent gain.
  • One in five registered voters in the state lives in Multnomah County, and nearly 45 percent of voters live in the three-county region that comprises metropolitan Portland. One in 10 voters lives in Lane County.
  • Wheeler County has the smallest number of voters, with 951.
  • Nearly 90 percent of voters live in counties on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.




Follow AP writer Jonathan J. Cooper at

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

More information about registering to vote:

The deadline for voters in Oregon to register to vote in the Nov. 6 General Election is Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Oct. 19-23.

Learn more: Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division

In Washington, the deadline to register to vote online has passed. Voters can still register in person at their local election department until Monday, Oct. 29.

Ballots wil be mailed the week of Oct. 22.

Learn more: Washington Secretary of State Elections & Voting website