SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Democrats and Republicans are urging unregistered and unaffiliated voters to sign up by Tuesday in order to meet the deadline to vote in the May 15 primary election, The Bulletin reported.
More than 800,000 of Oregon's 2.6 million voters are not registered with any party. That's fewer than the number of registered Democrats and more than the number of registered Republicans. Only voters registered in either party can vote in the primary, which chooses candidates for the general election.
The Independent Party allows any registered voter to cast a ballot in its primary.
"We like to think of ourselves as the Democrats, with a small 'd'," said Redmond resident Andrew Kaza, a member of the Independent Party's state council. "We believe in inclusion, and closed primaries are highly exclusionary."
Unless nonaffiliated voters register by Tuesday or opt for the Independent Party ballot, they will be shut out of choosing the first round of candidates for governor, Congress and the Legislature.
In 1950, less than 2 percent of Oregon voters were not registered as Democrats or Republicans, according to the Oregon secretary of state. By 1978, about 10 percent were not with either major party. The trend grew to about 20 percent by 1994.
Today, more than 30 percent are not registered with the top two parties.
Twenty states now hold open primaries in which voters can request a ballot for any party at the polling place, according to the political website Ballotpedia.
In 2008, Oregon voters defeated a measure to allow open primaries by a 2-to-1 margin.
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com