Early returns running slow; high final vote total expected

Voters are turning in their ballots at a slower pace than in previous nonpresidential election years.

With a week to go before the election, 17.3 percent of Jackson County voters had turned in their ballots, which is about 2 percent behind both 2002 and 2006, Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said Tuesday.

However, Walker said, she anticipates a strong last-minute showing by local voters that could bring the turnout up to 70 percent or more by next Tuesday.

She said interest in the races for governor and Jackson County commissioner will keep voter turnout relatively high.

"Jackson County might go over the statewide turnout," she said.

In 2006, voter turnout in the county was 74 percent.

Republicans have returned ballots the quickest, with 19.8 percent of the county's 44,503 registered Republicans voting so far.

Democrats are not too far behind, with 18.4 percent of the 41,177 who have registered mailing in their ballots.

Only 11.4 percent of those not affiliated with any party — a total of 22,774 people — have sent in their ballots, while 13.5 percent of the 7,165 people registered with smaller parties have sent in their ballots.

Walker said she has noticed a trend in recent elections of voters mailing their ballots later in the election cycle.

Allen Hallmark, chair of the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee, said Democrats need to turn out in this election to overcome the greater numbers of Republicans in the county.

"My concern is that there are Democrats out there that are upset at what's happening at the national level," he said. "I just feel a lot of Democratic voters are put off because their expectations were not met by the Obama administration."

Hallmark said the president was handed a load of problems, from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to dealing with two wars.

He said voters need to turn in their ballots because everything they believe in will be undermined if Democratic candidates aren't elected.

Doug Breidenthal, chair of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee, said he's had a record number of volunteers helping the get-out-the-vote campaign.

Some of the volunteers are members of the Constitution or Libertarian parties, he said.

"I'm seeing the previous fracturing of the conservative base going away," he said. "I would go so far as to say the fiscal irresponsibility of Washington has done wonders to unite the fiscally responsible base of Jackson County."

Breidenthal said he thinks many Democrats who tend to be more fiscally conservative will vote Republican this election.

He said he's encouraged by the early ballot information showing more Republicans have submitted their ballots.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

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