Rise in nonaffiliated voters spurs push to open Oregon primaries

An election worker sorts ballots at the Malheur County Clerk's Office in May 2021. An initiative effort underway in Oregon would open primary elections to nonaffiliated voters. (Malheur Enterprise file photo)

Oregon voters who aren’t registered with any political party reached a significant milestone in March: They now outnumber Democrats. 

Nonaffiliated voters have long been the second largest bloc in the state, behind Democrats and ahead of Republicans. Their continued growth, due in part to a 2015 law that automatically registered people getting or renewing driver’s licenses as nonaffiliated voters, could give them more political power.

But they don’t get a say in picking candidates in most primary elections.

When county clerks mail ballots in May, nonaffiliated voters will see one major statewide race for the nonpartisan commissioner . . .