Despite an absence of excitement at the top of the ticket, voters in Multnomah County are so far returning their ballots for the May 19 primary at a healthy rate.
That compares favorably with 31,817 votes through five days (6.93 percent of registration) in 2016, the last presidential primary year, and 29,870 in 2012 (7.43 percent).
It's important to note when considering voter turnout that the landscape in Oregon changed dramatically with the beginning of the state's "motor voter" law in 2016. That law automatically registers people to vote when they obtain or renew driver's licenses and had the effect of adding more than 500,000 voters to the rolls. Many of those new voters are not affiliated with either major party and they vote less frequently than partisan voters.
The advent of motor voter registration has greatly increased the number of Oregonians who vote. But since many of the new voters are not affiliated with either major party and vote less often than partisan voters, it has also had the effect of depressing the percentage of those who are registered who actually cast a ballot.
So the results so far, which are admittedly preliminary and a small fraction of the number of ballots that will be cast, suggest the absence of contested presidential primaries or a compelling congressional race at the top of the ticket isn't dampening voter enthusiasm—or maybe people stuck at home have little else to do.