Ballots continue to flow in, but pace off from last governor’s race

Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess shows the different ballot styles in Marion County. (Claire Withycombe/East Oregonian)

Voters are turning ballots in more slowly than the last time Oregon elected a governor, according to the state Elections Division, as big money continues to flow to the campaigns of Democrat Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler.

About 11.6 percent of registered voters turned in ballots as of Friday – 12 days before the election – compared with 17.4 percent at this point in the 2016 election, when Brown defeated Republican challenger Bud Pierce. In other recent general elections, the return rate in 2012 was 14.9 percent and in 2014, it was 12.5 percent.

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Nov. 6.

Ballots were mailed Oct. 17.

Out of 333,767 ballots returned as of Friday, 46 percent came from Democrats, who make up about one-third of Oregon’s 2.7 million registered voters.

About one-third, 31.6 percent, of Republican voters have so far returned their ballots. They make up 26 percent of the state’s electorate.

Meanwhile, nonaffiliated voters – who are 32 percent of registered voters – have returned less than 16 percent of all ballots reported so far. They remain a wild card in state elections this year.

Most notable from Friday’s update on returns was unaffiliated voters’ low turnout rate, Moore said.

“They are not as engaged,” he said.

Ballots remain unopened and won’t be processed by county clerks until next Tuesday, according to Debra Royal, chief of staff for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.

While voters continue to make up their minds, national political groups continue to pour money into Oregon’s governor race.

On Oct. 18, for instance, the Republican Governors Association gave another $500,000 to state Rep. Knute Buehler. Gov. Kate Brown, meanwhile, netted $250,000 from Democratic pro-choice group EMILY’S List. The group has given $750,000 to Brown so far.

As of Friday, disclosure forms showed Buehler’s campaign with a balance of $3.2 million, while Brown had about $3.5 million left to spend.

Buehler has been in the spotlight for considerable donations from the Republican governors and Nike co-founder Phil Knight, which have each given Buehler $2.5 million.

Knight also gave $1 million to the governors association last month, leading Democrats to speculate that the funds were immediately routed to Buehler’s campaign. The association has said donors can’t direct where their money goes.

In addition to those infusions, Buehler also reported receiving $100,000 from lumber company Freres Timber Inc.

Brown has been attracting donations from conservation, gun safety and pro-choice groups, according to her campaign finance reports.

The League of Conservation Voters PAC recently chipped in $65,709, and Planned Parenthood of Oregon provided another $25,000. On the 16th, she received an additional $250,000 from national gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, which has given her a total of $500,000. Everytown for Gun Safety is an umbrella group for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story relied in incorrect numbers about the ballot returns.

Paris Achen: [email protected] or 503-363-0888. Achen is a reporter for the Portland Tribune working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group and Salem Reporter.

Aubrey Wieber: [email protected] or 503-575-1251. He is a reporter for Salem Reporter working with the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of the Pamplin Media Group, EO Media Group, and Salem Reporter.