Max Denning

Voter turnout in Union and Wallowa counties is outpacing the statewide turnout as of the morning of Nov. 1.

With four days until election day, 28.5 percent of ballots have been returned in Oregon. In Union County 30.2 percent of ballots have been returned, and in Wallowa County 36.3 percent of ballots are in.

Union County Clerk Robin Church said she’s not sure why Union County often has higher turnout than the rest of the state. She said the voter turnout so far has been about average.

In March 2015, Gov. Kate Brown signed the Oregon Motor Voter bill, making Oregon the first state to have automatic voter registration. In the first six months of the law being in place, the automatic registration program registered 206,554 Oregonians through the DMV. The law shifted the state from an opt-in process to an opt-out process, requiring individuals who do not want to be sent a ballot to opt out of receiving one.

In a new study authored by professors at Northern Illinois University, Oregon was ranked as the easiest state to vote in. The study took into account factors such as registration deadlines, ease of registration, voter ID laws, convenience of voting and restrictions on voting. Oregon’s Motor Voter Act vaulted it to the top of the list, in addition to its vote-by-mail system.

Along the partisan divide in U nion County, Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans by almost 4,000 registered voters. Locally, both parties are turning out in similar rates. Among 3,789 registered Democrats, 1,463 have voted so far, a turnout rate of 38.6 percent. Among 7,579 registered Republicans, 2,807 have voted so far, a turnout rate of 37 percent. Unaffiliated voters have the worst turnout rate so far, with only 14.7 percent of the 5,245 registered voters returning their ballots so far.

In Wallowa County, the turnout rates are elevated, but similar. Of the registered Democrats in the county, 44.2 percent have voted so far, while 41.1 percent of Republicans have voted. Once again unaffiliated voters turnout is significantly lower, with only 21 percent having voted so far.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.