Vote turnout hasn’t measured up

Voter turnout for the Measure 30 tax increase is down compared to a similar election a year ago, but public employee-rich Marion County has the heaviest turnout in the state.

Not counting late votes arriving Monday and today, 48 percent of Oregon’s registered voters have cast ballots on the $1.2 billion tax package. This time a year ago, 53 percent of registered voters — or 100,000 more people — had cast ballots on the smaller tax increase known as Measure 28.

Measure 30, which would fill a state budget gap and stem cuts to public services by raising taxes, is attracting much more interest in the Salem-Keizer area.

Turnout has reached 57 percent in Marion County — highest among Oregon’s 36 counties. In the Measure 28 election in January 2002, Marion County was tied for the eighth-highest turnout in the state.

Steve Lindland of Silverton was one of many people boosting the county turnout rate when he dropped off a ballot Monday at Marion County Courthouse.

“I voted for Measure 30 because the schools need it and you get what you pay for,” Lindland said.

If it fails, he said, “It would hit the people that need it the most, the young and the elderly.”

Maxine Stone of Salem, who also dropped off her ballot, voted against Measure 30.

“I feel badly for the people that are going to suffer if it doesn’t pass, but I also believe there are places in our government that could be cut,” Stone said.

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, the state elections chief, said it was hard to know how the lower statewide turnout might affect the outcome of Measure 30.

“The turnout for Measure 28 was 66 percent, which for a special election was considered very good. We’re on track to get close,” Bradbury said.

Roger Gray, a political consultant who works with unions, said public sentiment may lean against the tax hike, but turnout will determine if Measure 30 passes or not.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with public opinion,” Gray said. “It has everything to do with who’s going to turn out and vote.”

Chuck Adams, a political consultant for Measure 30 opponents, said his side is doing a much better job mobilizing supporters in voter-rich Multnomah County. That is considered the key battleground.

Multnomah County typically provides the most votes in favor of taxes. However, voters there may be less reliable supporters of Measure 30, because they already voted to raise their own income taxes to limit cuts to schools, human services and public safety.

“That has taken quite a bit of air out of their arguments, because there’s not going to be a dramatic impact on Portland schools in particular, in the event of a failure of Measure 30,” Adams said.

Democratic pollster Lisa Grove, who conducted some polls for Measure 30 supporters, said it could be a close race. But many voters are more anxious about the economy than they were a year ago during the Measure 28 campaign, she said.

Many are wondering “where the heck is the recovery?” she said. Plus the war in Iraq and the earlier tax vote in Multnomah County are problems for Measure 30 supporters, she said.

“That’s a tough trio to overcome,” she said.

About Measure 30

Voters will decide the state Legislature tax-increase plan in a special statewide vote today.

Tax plan: Measure 30 would impose a three-year personal income-tax surcharge of 1 percent to 9 percent depending on the taxpayer’s income; increase the $10 corporate minimum income tax to $250 or more; change other tax provisions; restrict the elderly medical expense deduction based on age and income; reduce or eliminate the discount for early payment of property taxes; extend an extra 10-cent-per-pack cigarette tax through 2005; and avoid $544.6 million in budget cuts to education, health care, senior services and public safety.

In favor: Our Oregon Coalition, a coalition that includes labor unions, educators, some businesses, social service advocates and their clients and some religious leaders. The tax plan also is backed by the governor, many Democratic legislators and some Republican legislators.

Against it: Russ Walker, the Northwest director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, was the chief petitioner for the initiative. He also is the spokesman for the Taxpayer Defense Fund, the opposition campaign group. The tax plan also is opposed by the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, the Oregon Taxpayers Union, leaders of the Libertarian and Republican parties and many Republican legislators.

The vote, results

Voting: Measure 30 ballots must be returned to county elections officials by 8 p.m. today. It is too late to mail them. Click here for a list of local drop sites.

Wednesday’s newspaper: Complete coverage, including the impact of the vote and what’s next for the state.

E-mail survey: For a story, the Statesman Journal wants to know why people voted for or against Measure 30. What factors influenced your vote? What should happen after the election? Send an e-mail reply today to State Editor Richard R. Aguirre or a fax to (503) 399-6706. Include your full name, city of residence, occupation and day and evening telephone numbers (for verification only).

Steve Law can be reached at (503) 399-6615.