Posted by | October 2, 2012 10:53 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

With attempts across the country to restrict the vote, it is worth remembering that the United States lags behind most of the developed world in voter turnout. That makes initiatives like Oregon’s vote by mail important.  This post compares two adjacent counties with similar demographics, one in Oregon and one in California:

In Del Norte County, the most northwestern country of California, 8,298 people voted in the 2008 election: 45% voted for President Obama while 52% voted for Senator John McCain.  According to the U.S. Census, the population of Del Norte County over 18 into 2011 was 22,545 (the changes over the three years between 2008 and 2011 are quite minimal in a rural county).  By this measure, the voter turnout rate of the county in 2008 was an abysmal 36.8%.  Just north of Del Norte County, 18,905 citizens of voting age live in Curry County, Oregon.  In 2008, 11,842 people voted in the county, 43% for Mr. Obama and 54% for Mr. McCain.  What’s the difference between these two counties?  Both have rural, Republican-leaning precincts and magnificent wildlife.  The only difference between the two seems to be the invisible 42nd parallel that divides the states…and the overwhelming majority Curry county has in voter turnout.  62.6% of voters cast ballots in Curry County, nearly double the percent of voters who came to the polls in Del Norte county.

We should be paying attention to developments like this to expand the vote rather than chasing the ghost of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress it.

By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.