18,000 voters registered as 'other' run gamut
SALEM — It takes all kinds: Democrat, Republican, Frisbiterian.
About 18,000 of the approximately 2.55 million registered voters in Oregon choose "other" as their party affiliation when they register to vote.
Most — about 11,000 — leave the space next to the "other" box blank. More than 700 have written in "Independent," even though Oregon has an official Independent Party and there's also a "non-affiliated" option.
Others, according to data provided by the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, get a bit more creative.
Some appear to think they've found a clever play on "party" — keg, tea, toga.
There are communists, anarchists and one voter who imagines him- or herself politically aligned with the hip hop group the Wu-Tang Clan.
Some voters have chosen historical relics like the Bull Moose Party or the American Whig party.
Others still pick designations that seem to convey a sort of Oregonian ethos: "Beer party," "Cannabis," "Cascadia Independence."
And some just beg more questions: "Heinz 57," "Atomic Temptations Vibrations," "champions of the lower case."
Some of the more whimsical names are reminiscent of the "Jedi census phenomenon," when, in the early 2000s, thousands of people in English-speaking countries designated "Jedi," the Star Wars order of knights, as their religion when polled by census-takers.
The irreverent "other" voters represent a "classic way to protest," Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, said.
In countries where voting is required, Moore said, "joke votes" can be common.
There's a key distinction here, though: registering to vote isn't required in Oregon. So while these "other" voters make the effort to register, they may be conveying displeasure with the party system.
"They're taking that step, and yet they say, 'A pox on all of your party houses,'" said Moore.
So what's voter participation like for these "other" voters, who take the trouble to register but are "meh" about the pre-designated choices?
About 69.8 percent of registered "others" cast ballots in the November 2016 election, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's office.
That's compared to 89.3 percent of registered Republicans, 87.9 of registered Democrats, 79.4 percent of registered Independents and 61.1 percent of non-affiliated voters.