Voter turnout reaches 16 percent on Election Tuesday

May 22, 2019

Multnomah County Elections on Tuesday night was not the bustling hub of activity that it typically is. Yet enthusiastic voters were still steadily casting their ballots until the 8 p.m. deadline.  

“Somebody has got to vote,” one voter shared while dropping off their ballot.

Opening boards process ballots for the May 2019 Special District Election

The 2019 Multnomah County Special District Election included seats on the boards of local school, water and rural fire protection district. Depending on where you live, your ballot also might have included requests for local tax money or law changes.

Voter turnout reached 16.06 percent as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 85,212 ballots returned out of 530,055 registered voters.

The last comparable Special District Election — where candidates rather than measures made up the majority of the ballot — was in 2015. Voter turnout was slightly higher at 17.56 percent, but the number of ballots and registered voters were both lower, at 76,416 ballots and 435,115 registered voters.

As ballots from other counties and ballots with signature challenges are reconciled and counted, “turnout will increase slightly prior to certifying the election on June 10,” Elections Director Tim Scott said of this year’s turnout rate.

“This is typical turnout for the special district election with a limited number of measures on the ballot. The Automatic Voter Registration law took effect in 2016 and resulted in a lot more voters being registered — that also affects the percentage of voter turnout.”

Crowds or no crowds, more than one hundred part-time elections workers opened and processed ballots Tuesday, including Margaret and Gary Swoboda.

Gary Swaboda (left) poses for picture with his mother Magaret Swaboda.

The lovingly combative mother and son help process ballots at the Elections Headquarters every election and never miss a chance to get a joke in while they do it.

“I give her a ride to the elections office and I don’t charge my mother for driving her around,” Swoboda said.   

“He was driving me to the elections office one year,”  Margaret Swoboda replied, “and I asked why he didn’t just come on in and work.”

Margaret Swoboda, 94, started working part-time at elections in the early 1990s. Gary, 66, started nine years ago.  

“There aren’t a lot of measures or high-profile candidates on the ballot this year, but it’s still important that people take the voting process seriously to ensure our democracy is upheld,” Gary Swoboda said.

“Everyone should vote,” chimed in Dorothy Fisher, a family friend who joined the group. “Because you can’t complain if you don’t vote.”

“Write that down,” Gary Swoboda said with a laugh.

Unofficial election results were posted at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The election is certified 20 days after Election Night.  

“It’s very important that young people get involved in the process,” Fisher continued.

“You gotta vote.”