BEND, OR -- Oregon’s Secretary of State last week released the first round of voter registration numbers since the state implemented its new “Motor Voter” law, showing more than 15,000 new registered voters. Deschutes County added about 5,000 registered voters in the past few months. But, Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship tells KBND News, "Since the Oregon Motor Voter went into effect January first, through the end of February, Deschutes County had an increase of 790 voters from Oregon Motor Voter; that’s only 16%. So, the other voters came through other means."
She says it’s still too early to gauge how the new law will impact Central Oregon. "I think we’re going to need to have a few more months under our belt before we can make those predictions. If you’re just going to base it off of the first 21-day cycles, you would probably think it’s not going to have that big of an impact. But, I think you need to probably go through a full year to see the ebbs and flows that happen; because, maybe one month out of the year there’s a much higher level of people interacting with the DMV than other months of the year."
She says the biggest impact could be felt in special elections, when registering voters who may not be interested in casting a ballot could skew the state’s double majority rule. "In a March and September election, if you’re putting out a real property tax initiative, you’ve got to have that double majority; that means you have to have 50% of the voters in that district return a ballot. And, in order for it to pass, you have to have at least 50% vote yes. So, it’ll be interesting to see how this new dynamic affects those processes."
Blankenship says the boost in voter registrations is likely more due to the current political climate and not from the new law. "Interest in what’s going on politically because of this year, changes in address, a lot of different reasons; but I think a lot of it has to do with it’s a presidential year and people are interested in that process."