Two-thirds of Oregon voters participated in 2022 midterm election

More than two-thirds of Oregon voters cast ballots in the November general election, final results certified Thursday showed.

In total, 1,997,689 Oregonians returned their ballots, more voters than in any other midterm election in the state’s history. 

“This election was smooth and secure,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the resiliency of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system and the importance of democracy to Oregonians.”

Oregon has long led the rest of the nation in voter turnout, and it appears on track to do so again this year. Not all states have certified their elections yet, but preliminary data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project shows Oregon with the highest turnout of any state.

The 66.9% turnout rate remains below turnout in every Oregon midterm election since 1998, which election officials attribute to an automatic voter registration law that took effect in 2016. Eligible voters are now automatically registered when they obtain or renew driver’s licenses or non-operating identification cards, and more than 800,000 net people have been added to state voter rolls since 2016.

A significant number of the automatically registered voters don’t participate, meaning that turnout percentages have decreased in recent years while the total number of votes cast increased. More than 250,000 more people voted in 2020 than 2016, but the turnout percentage fell from 80.3% in 2016 to 78.5% in 2020. This year’s general election had more than 100,000 more ballots returned than the 2018 midterms, but turnout dipped from 67.8% to 66.9%.

Turnout was highest among Republicans: 82.8% of registered Republican voters cast ballots, compared to 78.5% of Democrats and 44.5% of nonaffiliated voters. Nonaffiliated voters are the largest bloc in Oregon, with more than 1 million voters, followed by Democrats at just over 1 million and Republicans at slightly more than 730,000. 

Local turnout was below the state average, with 61.5% of Marion County voters and 66.5% of Polk County voters casting a ballot.

Democrats won the governorship, though Gov.-elect Tina Kotek captured less than 47% of the vote in a three-way race with Republican Christine Drazan and former Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson, who ran as a nonaffiliated candidate. Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer succeeded in flipping Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, giving Republicans two of the state’s six congressional seats. 

And Republicans in Oregon picked up three legislative seats, two in the House and one in the Senate, to break Democratic supermajorities in both chambers. That means Oregon Democrats can’t pass tax increases without Republican support.

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Julia Shumway is deputy editor of Oregon Capital Chronicle and has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.