Oregon had 2nd-highest number of votes cast in state history

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon recorded the second-highest number of votes cast in an election in the 2018 election in state history, though the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots was the lowest since 2002, according to final certified results released Thursday.

The clashing numbers are due to the number of registered voters having shot upward through Oregon's "motor voter" automatic voter registration. Only five times since 1960 has the 2018 turnout percentage of 69.7 percent been lower. It was as high as 86.51 percent in 1960.

The Oregon Secretary of State's office on Thursday said 1,914,923 ballots were returned last month, the number eclipsed only by the 2016 election in which 2,051,452 ballots were cast.

Through Oregon's pioneering motor voter program, those doing business at the motor vehicles department are automatically registered to vote.

Since the last midterm election, in 2014, voter rolls have increased by 26 percent. The total registered voters in Oregon for the Nov. 6 election was 2,748,232, compared with 2,553,808 in 2016 and 2,174,763 in 2014.

Gov. Kate Brown, who sailed to victory in the November election, said in her policy agenda last week that she intends to make it even easier for Oregonians to register to vote and to vote.

She proposed that any state agency interaction should allow eligible voters to easily register, whether it is signing up for classes or getting a fishing license. The Democratic governor also wants no postage stamp required for Oregonians to vote by mail. Voting is currently either done by mail in a stamped envelope or by using drop-off boxes.

State Election Director Steve Trout said the large number of votes cast this election means that the number of valid signatures that will be required to put initiatives and referenda onto ballots for the next four years has increased by 21 percent.

"Our constitution says that the number of signatures required to put initiatives and referenda on the ballot is a percentage of all votes cast for governor in the previous election," Trout said in a videotaped announcement. A total of 1,866,997 votes were cast for governor.

To add a constitutional amendment will require 149,360 signatures, or 8 percent of the votes cast for governor. An initiative statute requires 6 percent, equal to 112,020 signatures, and a referendum requires 4 percent, which is 74,680 signatures, Trout said.