State of Elections

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Category: Oregon

Nonpartisan Blanket Primary in Oregon

By: Matthew Hubbard

In 2014, Oregonians voted on Ballot Measure 90, which aimed to overhaul the state’s primary election system by establishing a nonpartisan blanket primary. A form of open primary, a nonpartisan blanket primary system requires all candidates for a political office to participate in a single primary. The top two vote getters from this primary advance to the general election, regardless of their stated party affiliation.

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Ballot Initiatives for Marijuana Legalization Track Public Opinion

By Hannah Whiteker

Fans of direct democracy should be excited about the increased use of state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana use. Direct democracy  allows citizens to enact and change laws, instead of electing representatives to make important decisions for them. One of the ways that the United States utilizes direct democracy is through state ballot initiatives. If a group of voters wants to get an initiative on the ballot to pass a law in their state (there is no initiative process for federal elections), the group must first get enough voters to sign a petition supporting the initiative. The number of signatures required varies by state. If the group satisfies the signature requirement, the initiative is put on the ballot for the next statewide election to be voted on by the people.

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Oregon’s New Hyper Motor Voter Law

By: Matthew Hubbard

Voter identification laws of various forms, which are currently enforced in 32 states, continue to garner significant national media attention and spark contentious debate. Proponents argue that the laws prevent voter fraud and preserve the legitimacy of the electoral process while opponents claim that in-person voter fraud is a phantom problem and that these claims are merely pretext for partisan vote suppression. As the public attention and debate surrounding these voting restrictions increases, however, one state has managed to quietly pass legislation that moves as far as possible in the opposite direction.

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Oregon: A Laboratory With Some Great Inventions

by Michael Althouse, Contributor

In election law, states can get a bad rap. States are supposed to be the laboratories for democracy, but when it comes to elections, it can seem like they’re more like the inept, maybe-racist, drunk uncle of democracy. It’s not all so bad out there, though, and Oregon is a good example of how states can innovate in a successful way. In 1998, just two years before Florida would grind the nation to a halt while it counted hanging chads, the people of Oregon overwhelmingly passed State Measure 60, requiring all votes to be cast through the mail. Two of the primary motivations behind the measure were that it would save money and it would increase voter participation. It’s hard to say with certainty whether voting by mail had an effect on voter participation, but in 1996 Oregon’s voter turnout was around 57%, and in 2000, two years after State Measure 60, it was around 80%. Any number of things can result in an increased voter turnout, such as passion around a relevant issue, a particularly divisive election, or natural disasters. Regardless of potential causes, since 1998, Oregon has consistently had one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the country. Continue reading

Modern Obstacles to Voting: Oregon’s Failed Attempt at Automatic Voter Registration

by Megan Thomas, Contributor

As much as we focus on getting out the vote for each election, the first step in voting usually takes place long before election day. Throughout the United States, citizens must register before they are allowed to vote.  Though some states allow same-day registration, most states require that voters register in advance of an election. Advance registration makes voting a multi-step process and is widely considered to be a barrier to voter access. Continue reading

East Coast Money, West Coast Elections

by Andrew Rauch

Oregon’s state motto is “She flies with her own wings.” For Democratic Attorney General Candidate Ellen Rosenblum, this motto should read “She flies with her own wings and local money.” Rosenblum’s campaign had a distinctly local flavor to it. She went to school at the University of Oregon, practiced law in Eugene, and she most recently served on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Highlighting these local ties, Rosenblum was able to paint herself as the Oregon candidate. This left her opponent, Dwight Holton, who worked at the United States Attorney’s office in Oregon, to fill the role of the outsider. Continue reading

Mr. Colbert: or, How states might learn to love campaign finance reform

Its opponents deride its existence as a farce upon campaign finance law.  Its supporters suggest that it is the only way to set the system straight.  News of it has reached the public’s consciousness, rarified air for anything in the field of campaign finance. And we’re not even talking about Citizens United.

The Federal Election Commission’s recent decision permitting comedian Stephen Colbert to form his own Super PAC has successfully turned the media’s (and to a certain extent, the public’s) attention to the post-Citizens United world of political donations. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Vote Early, Vote Often (Even if You’re Dead): An 81-year-old Oregon man was sentenced to 12 months in jail and a $5,000 fine for voting as both his deceased brother and son.

SAFE Voting in Kansas: Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach unveiled the Safe and Fair Elections (SAFE) bill January 18 that would require voters to show ID at the polls and proof of registration when registering for the first time.

Provision Ballot Chaos in Ohio: In a case that may end up in front of the Supreme Court, a U.S. District Court and the Ohio Supreme Court issued conflicting rulings on some provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct in the November elections.

Hotspots: Key Post-Election Disputes in the States

Keep checking back here for links to the latest state midterm election results and recount coverage


Alaska, Arizona, CaliforniaColorado, Connecticut, Illinois (Gubernatorial, House), Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri,New York, North Carolina, OregonTexas, VirginiaWashington



Joe Miller, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alaska, will probably require a hand recount of the write-in votes before he will concede the race.

Wednesday night, Democrat Scott McAdams conceded the race after only getting 23% of the vote.

Murkowski and Miller are preparing for the next round of ballot counting that will begin next week. Murkowski has set up a separate campaign account to support campaign efforts in the counting process.

Joe Miller is questioning the fairness of the process and has filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent misspelled ballots being counted for Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The Associated Press reports that a federal court judge has denied Republican Joe Miller’s request for an injunction to stop the counting of incorrectly spelled write-in ballots.

Live coverage of the counting is being streamed online.

The Court has rejected Miller’s request to stop the recount.  The count now shows Murkowski with 98% of the initial write-in vote.

Joe Miller’s prospects for victory are getting slimmer, and the lawyers are starting to leave Alaska.

Alaska election officials have completed the fifth day of counting write-in ballots.  Senator Lisa Murkowski has retained 89% of write-in votes

With almost all votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski currently has an edge of over 2,000 votes over Republican Joe Miller.  Murkowski’s total does not include the over 10,000 challenged ballots.

As counting ends, Murkowski is heading back home and is expected to declare victory soon.  8,135 ballots have been challenged, but even if all of those ballots were thrown out by the Court, Murkowski would still be ahead by more than 2,000 votes.

With all but 700 write-in votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski has declared victory over Republican candidate Joe Miller.  The AP called the race for Murkowski Wednesday evening.

Joe Miller is asking a federal judge to stop election officials from certifying results declaring Murkowski the winner.  Murkowski leads by about 10,400 votes; Miller has challenged 8,153 of the ballots counted for Murkowski.

A federal judge has granted Joe Miller (R) a temporary injunction preventing election officials from naming Senator Lisa Murkowski the winner.  Miller filed his complaint on the grounds that the counting of misspelled ballots for Murkowski violates state law.  Miller will now bring the issue to state court.

Attorneys for the state of Alaska have asked a judge to decide the case over contested absentee ballots by next week.  The case will be heard Wednesday in state court in Juneau.  Senator Lisa Murkowski is seeking to intervene in the suit.  Her attorneys have said her seniority will be in jeopardy if she is not sworn in when the new Congress meets in January. Continue reading

Vote by Mail: Wave of the Future?

In 1998 Oregon voted by a wide margin to expand its experimental vote-by-mail system to all primary and general elections in the state. Oregon was followed by Washington, which with the exception of a single county, has adopted a similar vote-by-mail system. The typical voting procedure in these states is that three weeks to a month before the election the state mails ballots to all registered voters who fill them out and have until the night of the election to return them via mail or by dropping them off at a county office. Now, in 2009, the model pioneered by the northwest is being tested in the east, as New Jersey is moving towards its own version of the vote-by-mail system. New Jersey has allowed voters to vote absentee without restriction since 2005, but the off-year elections in November 2009 were the first test of a new system that more fully embraced the vote-by-mail concept, by removing any pretense to the ballot being for absentee purposes.  This system differs from that embraced by Oregon and Washington in that voting by mail is not mandatory, it’s just another option in addition to more traditional polling systems. New Jersey embraced the program for the same reason that states like Oregon and Washington did, in an attempt to boost voter participation by making voting more convenient. The New Jersey Secretary of State touts the new program as removing any excuse for Jerseyites not to vote, and Oregon boasts of an 86 percent voter turnout in the 2004 Presidential Election and a 70 percent turnout in the 2006 midterms.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the vote-by-mail model is truly successful in driving up voter participation. The change to New Jersey’s early voting law in 2009 was likely a response to the lack of success from its 2005 expanded absentee voter law. According to numbers tabulated by the New Jersey Secretary of State, in every statewide primary and general election from 2003 to the 2008 primaries, absentee voting never amounted to more than .05 percent of ballots cast.  Even Oregon and Washington, the two states that have implemented mandatory vote-by-mail systems, the results may not be as remarkable as advertised. Continue reading

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