Voter turnout is on track to be low in the May 15 primary in Jackson County despite a record number of registered voters.
“I think it’s going to be in the 30 to 32 percent range,” Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said.
On Monday, the turnout was 22.3 percent, though many voters drop their ballots off during the last couple of days at drop boxes.
Compared with the May 2014 primary at 56 percent, this election hasn’t garnered much interest from those not affiliated with any party.
Nonaffiliates now make up one of the largest voting blocks in the county, surpassing the total number of Democrats and edging close to Republicans. But only 5 percent of nonaffiliates have cast their ballots so far.
Democrats have seen a 27 percent turnout so far, while 25.1 percent of Republicans have turned in ballots, according to Walker. Other parties are at 13 percent.
Walker said she expects Democrats and Republicans will see a 35- to 40-percent turnout on election day, but the low showing among nonaffilates will drag the overall percentage down.
The county now boasts 149,777 voters, a 27 percent increase over the 117,629 registered in the May 2014 primary. In the Nov. 18, 2016, presidential election there were 143,301 voters. Registration is up because of automatic voter registration, online registration and more people moving into the valley.
Based on voter registration numbers on Monday, there are 47,277 Republicans in Jackson County, 44,480 Democrats, 46,800 nonaffiliates, 7,877 Independents and the remainder are from other minor parties.
Nonaffiliates can vote in judicial races and on the $25 million Medford school bond if they live in the district, but they won’t be able to vote in partisan races, including for the hotly contested Senate District 3 seat.
Sen. Alan DeBoer, R-Ashland, has decided not to run, endorsing Jessica Gomez.
The Senate seat, which has two Republican candidates, Curt Ankerberg and Gomez, and four Democrats, Julian Bell, Athena Goldberg, Jeff Golden and Kevin Stine, represents a district that covers all of the south county, from Medford to Ashland.
The total number of voters in Senate District 3 is 92,702, with 32,800 Democrats, 25,281 Republicans, 27,815 nonaffiliates and the remainder in other parties.
Besides a full slate of candidates, the Senate race has also brought in a significant dollar haul for candidates for a race that has cost more than $1 million previously. The Senate race is widely watched among the political class. Democrats hope to gain a supermajority in the Senate in 2019 while Republicans want to block that effort.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State, Goldberg has raised the most cash at $98,792.19 this calendar year, but $20,000 of it is a personal loan and $19,325.99 is from in-kind contributions, mostly from political action committees related to unions. Goldberg is also running a $13,537.73 deficit.
On the Republican side, Gomez has raised $90,000 this calendar year, with $16,824 in in-kind contributions coming from The Leadership Fund, a political group made up of Republican Senate leaders. Gomez has a balance of $11,853.85.
Her opponent, Ankerberg, hasn’t filed a contributions and expenses with the Secretary of State’s office since he expects to raise less than $3,500.
Golden has raised the third largest amount this year at $51,837, with a small amount of-kind contributions. He has a balance of $21,314.58.
Bell has raised $10,392 this year and is currently running a deficit of $4,433.95. Stine has received $1,132.12 this year and has a deficit of $3,842.98.
Ballots can be dropped off at six locations around the county: Central Point library, 116 S. Third St.; Eagle Point library, 239 W. Main St.; Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.; Rogue River library, 412 E. Main St.; Phoenix library, 510 W. First St.; and Jackson County Elections, 1101 W. Main St., Medford. All the locations have a 24-hour drive-up dropbox but close at 8 p.m. election day.