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Early voting hits new high for mid-term elections

By the end of the day Tuesday, 657,480 ballots had been collected throughout the state.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - By the end of the day Tuesday, 657,480 ballots had been collected throughout the state.Perhaps there is something to all the fundraising, television ads and "get out the vote" efforts.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, 2018 is seeing more voter activity so far than any other midterm election in Oregon history.

By the end of the day Tuesday, 657,480 ballots had been collected throughout the state. That's a 23 percent increase over the previous high set in 2014, according to the state. Percentage wise, however, the turnout hasn't changed much.

The increase is credited by the Secretary of State's Office to increases in population and registered voters. The actual percentage of ballots returned is on par with past mid-term years at 24 percent.

The state Elections Division said that as of Wednesday morning, 30 percent of registered Democrats have returned their ballots, as have 30 percent Republicans and 25 percent of Independents.

Independent Party of Oregon candidate Patrick Starnes dropped out of the race Tuesday morning, endorsing Gov. Kate Brown. Though Starnes suspended his campaign, he did so after the deadline to withdraw and will remain on the ballot. His decision came after 28,000 voters registered with the party had already returned their ballots. They can't change their vote despite Starnes' decision.

The most active county in early voting is Wheeler, a small, Eastern Oregon county where 47 percent of ballots have been returned. Washington County has had the lowest early voter participation with 19 percent. Multnomah County, by far the post populated, had 131,338, or 24 percent of its 538,700 registered voters, return ballots as of Tuesday evening.

Marion County is comparatively low in early voting, with 22 percent of ballots received. Polk County has recorded 25 percent of its ballots returned.

Oregon allows voters to send in ballots before Election Day, with a deadline of 8 p.m. Tuesday. Ballots must be received by that time to be counted.

With only a few days before the election, the Secretary of State's Office is advising all voters to now drop their ballot in a collection box rather than to mail them.

Reporter Aubrey Wieber: aubrey@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1251. He is a reporter for Salem Reporter working with the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of the Pamplin Media Group, EO Media Group, and Salem Reporter.