Spring Flood of Voting in Oregon
-Patrick S Lasswell
A record turnout of 38% of all ballots were already cast in Oregon by noon on Monday, as the only all vote-by-mail system in the nation swung into action a day before the actual election. Ballot boxes in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square were in heavy use during the lunch hour. This was the first primary in decades where Oregon’s (pronounced Or-eh-gun by locals) voters have impact on the national resulted in unprecedented registration. So many last minute registrations were submitted that many voters are receiving two ballots, only one of which will be counted.
Oregon’s (pronounced Or-A-GONE by twits) unique vote-by-mail system is made possible by a strong culture of independence. In the last decade voters have voted overwhelmingly for strong death with dignity and against same sex marriages, issues on opposite ends of the liberal-conservative divide. Most tellingly, Oregon voters get irritated over issues that are rammed down their throats in undemocratic ways. In the last year Portland Mayor Tom Potter’s attempt to change by fiat the name of Interstate Avenue to honor Cesar Chavez without a vote was derailed by community activism. The kinds of voter fraud rampant in Wisconsin and Illinois in 2004 are much less tolerated here because political machines would be ground up by irritated voters. The initiative and recall were invented in Oregon, and citizens here hate getting their power subverted by authorities.
How this will play out for “anointed” Democratic nominee Barack Obama remains to be seen. The black community in Oregon is less than 5%, smaller than the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community that has been largely ignored by the Obama campaign. Barack Obama has yet to be interviewed by a gay newspaper (of which Portland has two), an omission that could be costly in Oregon’s thriving GLBT community.
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