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Voter numbers surge in Jackson County

A record 148,928 voters will receive ballots in their mailboxes starting April 28, with those not affiliated with any party now numbering more than Democrats and are almost on par with Republicans.

According to the Jackson County Elections Center, the number of registered voters Monday jumped by more than 5,600 from the 143,301 registered for the Nov. 18, 2016, presidential election. It’s almost a third higher than a decade ago, when 112,990 voters were registered.

Chris Walker, Jackson County clerk, said the number of registered voters will be the highest it’s been for any election ever held in the county.

She said automatic voter registration, online registration and more people moving into the valley have helped push up the numbers.

“I still think a lot of it is because of increased move-ability and the desirability of Southern Oregon,” she said.

While there are record numbers of registered voters, the turnout may hit only 45 to 50 percent, Walker said. Primary elections typically have lower turnout than general elections.

One of the biggest surprises this election season is the number of nonaffiliated voters, or those not registered with any party.

In the county, there are now 46,257 nonaffiliated voters, surpassing the 43,957 Democrats and coming close to the 46,895 Republicans. Nonaffiliated voters will not be able to vote for candidates in the party primaries.

The only other party with a significant number of registered voters is the Independent Party with 7,855. Non-affiliated voters may vote in the Independent Party primary, but must file a form by April 24 to receive the correct ballot. For information, see http://sos.oregon.gov/voting/Documents/voters-not-registered-with-party.pdf.

Those thinking about switching party affiliation have until April 24. Voter registration and updates can be completed online at www.oregonvotes.gov.

Walker said those who switch party affiliation close to the election might receive two ballots, and should be prepared to not file the old version, which would no longer be valid.

Voters who don’t register for a party will find a limited number of choices on the primary ballot because they can’t vote for members of a specific party, though they can vote on bond measures, nonpartisan races and can enter write-in candidates.

Ballots should be received at the Jackson County Elections office no later than 8 p.m., May 15. If you don’t get a ballot by May 4 and you’re a registered voter, contact the Elections Office at 541-774-6148.

Ballots also 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.

The Voter’s Pamphlet will be delivered from April 18-20.

Walker said voting should be easier this year for precinct committee persons. Previously, voters had to figure out what precinct they were located in on a separate ballot sheet. This time, the precinct will be figured out for you and will be located on the same page as the other ballot options.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.