Apparently, Oregon has set a new low presidential primary turnout record. Turnout for 2012 is 34.33%* a whopping 12% below the previous presidential primary low turnout and about even with the previous non-presidential primary low.
Last Friday Oregonian columnist Jeff Mapes wrote that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown thought the primary election might be "in the 'low 40s,' which would be the lowest voter participation for the state's presidential primary in modern history."
Mapes noted that the lowest turnout rate for a presidential primary year was was in 2004 with 46.4%.** Lowest non-presidential primary turnout was in 1998 with 34.9%.
It looks like 2012 has smashed the 2004 low presidential primary turnout record by about 12% and matched the 1994 non-presidential primary low.
The ease of vote by mail is not stopping registered voter flight from Oregon elections.
Republican participation dropped 15% this year (40.1%) from 2008 (55.9%) in circumstances which are fairly similar to 2008 when McCain had already locked up the Republican nomination then as Romney has now. The 15% drop is not good news for Oregon Republicans or the Romney campaign.
Democratic participation dropped by more than half this year (36.1%) from 2008 (75.8%) though the drop in Democratic participation certainly has to do with the fact that in 2008 Obama and Hillary Clinton were still locked in a horse race for the Democratic nomination. Still it's also not good news for Democrats and the Obama campaign.
*preliminary figure as of 05/16/2012 12:17 PM
**Mapes explains the 2004 figure rather than the lower 1996: "If you go back through the old primary statistics on the Elections Division website, you'd be tempted to say the record low turnout was in 1996, when it was only 37.8 percent. But that wasn't a presidential primary. The Legislature created a separate March presidential primary that year in an attempt to give the state more clout."