Voter turnout lower than usual locally and statewide going into primary election

The Crook County primary election takes place tonight, and voters will decide one contested county office as well as the political party nominations for multiple state and federal positions.

Seventeen people have filed to run for Oregon governor, while another 11 have filed to fill the position of Second Congressional District Representative. Locally, incumbent Brian Huber is facing Jon Soliz for Crook County Assessor.

Although many political races will be decided by local voters, a smaller-than-usual percentage have turned in a ballot. According to Clerk Cheryl Seely, only 26.4 percent of 16,716 of Crook County voters have returned a ballot as of Monday morning. The turnout is lower than the last mid-term primary, where 30.77 percent had returned a ballot by the end of the day Monday. The 2014 primary ultimately drew 38 percent of Crook County voters.

Seely acknowledges that the turnout is low, but "not devastatingly low."

"Statewide, we were hearing (Thursday) from a bunch of the (county) clerks that the turnout was low," she said.

While Seely could not pinpoint the exact reasons behind the lower turnout, she did note that the slate of county positions is lighter than in most years. Although a county commissioner office is up for grabs like most primary elections, only one candidate, incumbent Brian Barney, has filed.

Seely also pointed out that the closed primary system in Oregon, and the way it precludes some voters from deciding certain partisan races, might affect people's willingness to turn in a ballot. Of the more than 16,000 registered Crook County voters, 5,163 are not affiliated with any of the political parties, therefore their ballots will not include any partisan races.

Seely said she has received calls from voters wondering why the governor candidates are not on their ballot, or why they have a different ballot than their spouse.

"There were several folks I talked to who said (deciding the governor position) is why they wanted to vote," she said.

Ballots are due at local drop sites throughout the county no later than 8 p.m.

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