Through May 15, the day before the May 16 election, the percentage of ballots returned stood at just 16.38%, an anemic total. It’s normal for the final day to see a flurry of ballots, but this year saw a far greater last-minute rush: 10.41% of voters turned in a ballot on election day.
That’s about twice the percentage of voters who waited until the last day in the past two May off-year elections. (Ballots were mailed to voters nearly a week late, thanks to a printing error by the Multnomah County Elections Division.)
And 2023 marked the first May off-year election in which ballots postmarked by, rather than received on, election day would be counted. So another 2.47% of ballots came in during the week after the election, bringing the final turnout to 29.26%, which is far larger than either of the past two May elections.
“We were expecting 25% turnout and planning for 30%, so we had the resources in place to handle the late surge,” says county elections director Tim Scott. “It was still a bit surprising, though, since we hadn’t seen a 10% election day turnout increase in a special district election since May of 2017.”
Voters elected Julia Brim-Edwards to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Patte Sullivan to the Portland School Board, renewed the Portland Children’s Levy, and rejected a capital gains tax.