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Our view: What did we learn from Tuesday’s election?

Published on May 16, 2018 5:01PM

A voter drops off her ballot on the day of Oregon’s primary election at a drive by drop-off station in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

A voter drops off her ballot on the day of Oregon’s primary election at a drive by drop-off station in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

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Another election is in the books, and we may have learned a few things in the May primary.

▪ A shakeup on Umatilla County Board of Commissioners.

Perhaps the only upset on the card was challenger John Shafer defeating incumbent Larry Givens in a race for county commissioner.

The precinct results show an interesting political reality in Umatilla County. Givens won in the Hermiston area, but was soundly defeated closer to home around Milton-Freewater and Pendleton. Winning over his neighbors, but also convincing enough west county voters to make a change, was enough to put Shafer over the top.

The other commissioner race has yet to be decided. George Murdock received the most votes but did not reach the 50 percent plateau, which means that he will face off with runner-up Rick Pullen in September. So for one race, the campaign season comes to an end, but for the other it has yet to really begin.

▪ OSU Extension has to go back to the drawing board.

The idea of a two-county service district to support 4-H as well as international ag research hit the skids on Tuesday. The message and the measure failed in both Morrow and Umatilla counties.

As we mentioned in the lead-up to the vote, passing a tax increase takes a lot of work. Each and every question has to be answered for voters to feel confident in heading down that route. And it is becoming more clear, as many taxing districts in the area hit compression, that new taxes are no longer just more money out of the taxpayer’s pocket. Now it’s about taking away money from other publicly funded projects — be it education or health care or public safety — which makes it an even more difficult sell.

▪ The Republicans will have some coming together to do in the governor’s race.

Knute Buehler won handily, securing 46.5 percent of the vote when dispatching challengers Sam Carpenter and Greg Wooldridge. But the map shows a clear divide between Eastern Oregon and the rest of the state. Morrow, Grant and Malheur counties — and everything east of them — went for Carpenter. Every other county but Columbia and Coos went for Buehler.

There are two ways to look at that result. The first is that Buehler still has to win over the reddest areas of the state, where turning out voters will be critical if he is able to upset Kate Brown. But other way to look at it is that a majority of Eastern Oregonians will surely vote for a Republican, and Buehler has made much stronger headway into the other side of the state than his opponents.

▪ Little effect seen from motor voter law.

We learned that people who haven’t gone out of their way to register to vote are not willing to return ballots even when they are registered automatically.

Our statewide voter turnout percentage declined from recent primary elections in 2014 and 2010, most similar to this year’s races. However, the actual number of voters grew slightly. That means the same people who like to vote are returning their ballots, but those who were automatically registered haven’t gotten engaged in the process yet. But perhaps the November general election will see a change.

Oregon’s overall turnout was 33.6 percent — not great but still ahead of other states who have their primaries already: West Virginia saw 26 percent of registered voters return a ballot, Nebraska at 24.3 percent, Ohio at 20.9 percent and North Carolina at 14.3 percent.

Even if there are hiccups in the process, we seem to be doing something right in Oregon.


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