The Secretary of State on Thursday reported big numbers for ballots returned for the Nov. 3 election and big numbers for fundraising and spending on ballot measures and candidates.
Early voting continues surge
As of Thursday morning, 57.5% of the state's 2,949,696 eligible voters have returned their ballots for the Nov. 3 election.
Umatilla reports 46.7% of ballots returned, the lowest return rate in the state. Malheur County, with 47.8% of ballots returned is the only other of Oregon's 36 counties that have not received more than half of ballots from eligible voters.
Benton County tops the list with 65% of ballots turned in. Other key counties: Deschutes (60.6%), Multnomah (60%), Clatsop (57.4%) Marion (52.9%).
Democrats continue to outpace Republicans in returning ballots. As of Thursday, 71 percent of Democrats in the state have voted vs. 61 percent of Republicans. The overall state average is lower because non-affiliated voters have returned only 39 percent of ballots.
Ballot measures drawing biggest bucks
A look at state records for largest campaign spending shows the biggest spenders are ballot measure proponents.
Yes for a Healthy Future PAC, supporting Measure 108 — the cigarette tax — has spent $5.29 million on advertising with Washington, D.C. based Buying Time. The same PAC has spent $1.7 million with Winning Mark, a Portland-based advertising buyer. The initiative has seen large contributions from hospitals and health care businesses to fuel the ad buying.
Ballot measure campaigns are also drawing big contributions.
New York-based Drug Policy Action has contributed $2.17 million to More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110 PAC, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of most drugs. Drug Policy Alliance, which formed the PAC, was founded in 2000 to advocate for laws to end what it says are failed policies from the "war on drugs."
Washington DC-based New Approach PAC has given $2.52 million to Yes for Psilocybin Therapy. It supports Measure 109, which would allow licensed therapy centers to use derivatives of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have contributed $500,000 to the More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110 PAC advocating the drug decriminalization ballot measure. The couple made the contribution via their Palo Alto-based foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Democrats want to break a record
Democrats are hoping a big turnout could push their majorities in the Legislature above the point where they can guarantee a quorum without Republicans.
Oregon is one of the few states requiring two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber be present to do business. GOP senators walked out in 2019 to stop a vote that would have likely approved a carbon cap-and-trade program. In 2020, Republicans in the House and Senate walked out over the issue again — though Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, and Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, did not take part.
To surpass two-thirds majorities, the Democrats would have to add two seats to their current 38. In the Senate, they need two more seats from their current 18.
Getting to 40 House members would be a history-making record-breaker for Democrats. The party has never had more than 38 of the 60 seats in the House. Besides the current House, they also had 38 in two sessions during the Depression in the 1930s.
The GOP has had some staggering majorities. It held a 59-1 edge in 1907 and 58-2 in 1947.
Democrats have had a majority in the House since 2013. It was evenly split between parties in 2011. The last time Republicans held a majority was in 2005.
Republicans last held a majority in the 30-member Senate in 2001. The parties were evenly split in 2003. Democrats have held the majority ever since. The record Democratic Senate majority is 24 seats in 1977. Republicans' biggest majority was 29 in 1931.