PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregonians were among the most active voters in the U.S. for the 2022 general election, data shows.
Official election results published by the Oregon Secretary of State show that 66.9% of registered Oregon voters cast a ballot in the 2022 general election. According to preliminary data provided by the U.S. Elections Project, that may be the highest voter turnout for any state in the country. Currently, the state with the second-highest rate of voter participation is Maine, where 61.5% of registered voters voted.
Oregon Secretary of State spokesperson Ben Morris told KOIN 6 that Oregon had an expected dip in voter turnout compared to the general 2020, which included the presidential election. However, even without the presidential election, Oregon’s participation rate remained comparatively high.
“This is due to our strong, pro-democracy laws like vote by mail and automatic voter registration, as well as our state’s long tradition of civic engagement,” Morris said. “We regularly beat other states in turnout.”
The Oregon county with the highest percentage of voter participation was Wheeler County, with a turnout of more than 78%. The second highest rate was in Benton County, where more than 75% of voters cast a ballot. Grant County came in third with a voter turnout of more than 74%.
Umatilla and Malheur counties saw the worst voter turnouts in the state, both receiving ballots from less than 53% of registered voters. Umatilla County Board of Commissioners Chair John Shafer told KOIN 6 news that his county’s historically low turnouts may be caused by voters feeling like their votes don’t count.
“The only thing I have heard directly from the voters is that many of them have said they don’t vote because their vote doesn’t count,” Shafer said. “They feel they are at the whim of the voters in the metro part of the state. I tell them they are only at the whim of the voters in the metro part of the state simply because so many voters on this side of the state don’t fill out and return a ballot.”
In response to Umatilla County’s low voter turnout rates, Shafer said, local government officials are working with Eastern Oregon University to figure out new ways to improve voter participation.
“Unfortunately, Umatilla County has historically been near or at the bottom of voter turnout for many years,” he said. “We are in talks with Eastern Oregon University to have an intern who is interested in politics coming and working with our County Clerk to increase our participation.”