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I generally say that more heavily Hispanic areas in Oregon have trouble with turnout. Below I use maps and charts to illustrate my research into whether I am truthful in asserting that.

Oregon's Hispanic populations are heavily concentrated in a few areas. Below is a county map of the Hispanic population as a portion of the total population (according to the 2010 census), with darker counties being more Hispanic and lighter counties being less Hispanic. The darkest, Hood River, Morrow, and Malheur, are near or above 30% Hispanic, while the lightest, such as Baker and Wallowa, are perhaps 2-4% Hispanic.

The next map shows the voter turnout in the 2012 election by each county, with lighter counties having higher turnout, and darker having lower turnout. As you can see, I was paused for a few moments when I noticed that there didn't seem to be a relationship between Hispanic population concentrations and turnout. Umatilla County has both a relatively high Hispanic population and also low turnout at about 64%, but Josephine County had a low Hispanic population and also had among the lowest turnout. The counties with the highest turnout, all heavily white, had turnout around 81%
I did notice, though, that while there were some counties with low Hispanic populations that nevertheless had low turnout, counties with significant non-white populations also tended to have lower turnout across the board. Within moments I had realized that perhaps a different set of data was what I needed. Instead of looking at turnout of registered voters, as I did above, I would consider turnout out of the whole voting age population, and instead of just comparing the Hispanic populations of counties, I would compare it to the total non-white populations. The next map is colored by the white population of each county, with lighter areas being less white and darker areas being more white.
Jefferson County is the least white in the state, with both over 19% of the county being Hispanic and nearly 17% being Native American. Morrow and Malheur counties in Eastern Oregon are nearly one third Hispanic and Native American combined, while Umatilla in Eastern Oregon has a combined Native American and Hispanic population of over 27%. Hood River County is nearly a third non-white, Marion County is nearly 29% non-white, while Oregon's two most populous counties, Multnomah and Washington, are over 24% and nearly 27% non-white respectively, having higher Asian and African American populations than the other counties as well as significant Hispanic populations. In comparison, Wallowa County had the smallest non-white voting age population in the state at about 4.4%.

I then turned to look at how each county's voter registration in the 2010 election compared to that county's voting age population in the 2010 census, with counties with high registration rates being lighter, and low registration rates being darker. This is where there began to appear more in common between high non-white populations and low registration rates. While in between there was more variability, the counties with the lowest non-white populations had the highest registration rates, and those with the highest non-white shares of populations had the lowest registration rates. For example, Gilliam County has one of the lowest non-white populations, but over 80% of adults were registered to vote. In Jefferson County there is the largest non-white population, and fewer than 59% of adults were registered to vote. In heavily Hispanic Malheur County little more than 52% of adults were registered to vote.

This is just a step in the right direction, though. What I really want to see is how many of those people voted out of the whole adult population. And so I have that below. Once more darker counties have lower rates of voting/participation by adults, lighter ones are higher. This also tends to correlate fairly well with the white/nonwhite populations, but only at the extreme ends. You'll be able to see better below in a chart, but participation goes as low as barely a third of adults in Malheur County to as high as more than two thirds in Wallowa County.
To compare them directly and so you can see the numbers, below is a chart showing each county's non-white population percentage to the participation of voting age residents in each county. Once we've seen all of the data together we can realize that the reason Josephine seems to have such low turnout is simply because it has a higher proportion of registered voters than most counties. The overall participation rate is comparable to many counties with lower registration rates. Still, Linn County and Hood River County stand out as a heavily white county with relatively low participation and a relatively heavily Hispanic county with a participation rate closer to the norm. I am going to continue to research to discover why this is.
Looking at specific cities/communities within some counties, comparing neighboring communities with higher and lower non-white populations to each other, we can see that the same divergence in participation occurs. Again, this is using participation in the 2010 election to the non-white population found by the 2010 census.
Silverton, for example, in Marion County, is only about 13% non-white, and had more than double the participation rate of nearby Gervais, which is nearly 71% non-white. Warm Springs, a Native American reservation, has the lowest turnout on the whole list. This is definitely a boon for Republicans since the reservation is one of the most Democratic sites east of the Cascades.


It is reasonably inferred from this that because places with higher non-white populations tend to have lower voting participation than counties with higher white populations, especially at the extremes, most of the lack of participation comes from non-white Oregonians themselves. Part of this is because they are more likely to be immigrants who lack voting rights, part of this is because they are more likely to be incarcerated, and if so then they do not have the franchise until released. A significant part of it must be because fewer who could participate are doing so, however.

Every county in the state has a higher non-white portion of the population among those under 18 years of age than among the adult population. In many counties the under 18 non-white population is double the size of the adult non-white population as a share of the whole.

Considering the population of immigrants to Oregon is almost entirely non-white, there is only one counter to non-white populations becoming a much larger share of both the population and the electorate: whites moving to Oregon from other states. All indications are, though, that the non-white populations in each county will significantly increase.

In Washington County the non-white share of the under 18 population is 42%. In Multnomah and Umatilla counties, its 44%. In Marion County it is nearly 48%, in Hood River it is just a hair below 50%, and in Morrow and Malheur it's over 50%. Malheur County's white population actually shrank between 2000 and 2010, while its Hispanic population grew significantly. In Jefferson County over 61% of the under 18 population is non-white. Even on the Coast, which tends to be whiter than the state, every county's under 18 population is at least 20% non-white, and in Lincoln County it is 30%.

This is not only in Hispanic populations, as generally across most communities the Asian American, African American, Hispanic, and Native American populations as well show higher portions among under 18 populations than among adult populations.

Incarceration may be significant causes of low participation in some places like Umatilla and Malheur counties which have state prisons, and so may have their non-white populations inflated from incarcerated prisoners, but that does not explain why the under 18 non-white populations re so large. As well, while those counties have a lot of immigrant workers who lack the right to vote, the under 18 populations should have much higher rates of citizenship because more were probably born here. Lack of participation among the smaller adult populations may not mean that the larger, younger non-white  populations will have the same problems preventing participation.

If the same obstacles persist, counties across Oregon will see much lower participation rates in elections as the non-white share of the population grows. If they do not persist, Oregon will be a very different place in 30 years than it is today.


There are two different kinds of trends to consider when weighing the potential of an increasingly non-white electorate: statewide and local.

If most of the places where there are large percentages of people not voting are places where there are high non-white populations, most of the non-voters are likely non-white. Because of how demographic groups vote, this makes it appear that most of the people who aren't voting would vote Democratic. If that is true, and if it is true that Oregon is becoming less and less white every year, and so is the electorate, then Oregon Republicans need to do one of two things in order to keep from falling further and further behind: do much better among non-white voters, or do much better among white voters. They really have few untapped white voters outside of Linn and maybe Klamath counties.

The non-white populations tend to be concentrated in certain areas. The African American population is concentrated in portions of North and Northeast Portland. The Asian American populations are concentrated in outer east Portland, especially around 82nd Avenue, as well as the Washington County suburbs, especially north of Highway 26. Native populations are concentrated around reservations and communities in Yamhill, Polk, Umatilla, Klamath, Lincoln, Wasco, and Jefferson counties. Large Hispanic populations are in Umatilla, Morrow, Malheur, Jefferson, Hood River, Marion, and Washington counties, with pockets in other places like White City in Jackson County.

In recent elections many of these counties have trended Democratic, like Multnomah, Hood River, Washington, and Malheur. However, many others have trended Republican, like Umatilla, Morrow, and Wasco counties. As well, some of the whitest counties in the state, sparsely populated Wheeler and Gilliam, seem to be trending Democratic in recent years. It seems unclear if some of the trends are due to growing non-white populations or not.


If non-white participation increased significantly, Hispanic Oregonians in particular could become empowered in many communities, and could become pivotal voting blocs or even dominant in places like Woodburn and Salem, Hillsboro, Cornelius, Beaverton, Hood River, Hermiston, Ontario, and Madras, even in Portland and even in communities on the coast. But it could also lead to turning some Eastern and Central Oregon counties blue, and retaining Democratic strength on the coast. Malheur County is one of the reddest in the state, but it is hard to imagine Republicans winning by more than single digits there in a couple decades, given current trends and so long as participation among Hispanics there rises to near that among non-Hispanic whites.

Recently many local communities in Eastern Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge have been supporting pro-immigrant policies at the state and federal levels, even some in deep red and Republican-trending Umatilla County. Many farmers and residents have been pressing Greg Walden to vote for immigration reform, and many of the Republican state legislators in those areas voted to allow undocumented residents to have temporary drivers licenses and allow them to use in-state tuition (statewide, Republicans are still the main opponents to pro-immigrant legislation). However, as non-white populations boom we may see increasing racial polarization in some traditionally Republican and white-controlled counties, and we may see increasing efforts to prevent non-whites from voting, as Republicans are doing in places like Texas and North Carolina.

Efforts to increase participation of the non-white populations across Oregon must include supporting Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a path to citizenship. Low citizenship rates among many immigrant residents of Oregon is likely one of the biggest barriers to raising participation. Other things that Oregon could do to try to improve participation is legalizing marijuana, which should lead to fewer people being incarcerated for drug crimes, or passing a state voting rights act to prevent counties or other locales from affecting their election laws or procedures in ways that will target minority populations.

Oregon Democrats in particular, both party organizations and politicians, should reach out to non-white communities across the state and aid their own community groups in efforts to increase their political power and participation. There have already been some efforts like this in some places, but there is obviously more work to do, especially in certain communities like Chiloquin, Warm Springs, and Gervais where there are extremely low participation rates. While it is unlikely that this would turn all of Southern and Eastern Oregon blue, given the extremely concentrated nature of these populations, it is possible that there could be a state house district or two that could flip on account of increasing participation rates in 10-20 years, and statewide it would be a big boon for Democrats in continuing to keep Republicans locked out of statewide office.

Originally posted to James Allen on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Oregon and Koscadia.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Looking at the last few presidential elections (10+ / 0-)

    it is hard to determine trends in all counties. Click on these maps to see the whole state, not cut off:

     photo 2008to2012trend_zps48dd2324.png
    Trend from 2008 to 2012

     photo 04-08to08-12trend_zpsdaf278d5.png
    Trend from 2004/2008 average to 2008/2012 average

     photo 00-04to08-12trend_zpsef7f16d4.png
    Trend from 2000/2004 average to 2008/2012 average

    It seems pretty clear that in most places 2000 was a low-water mark and 2008 was a high-water mark, but apart from that there are a few clear trends: Malheur is coming our way, and Wheeler and Gilliam counties probably are too. But despite having among the highest non-white populations, Jefferson, Umatilla, and Morrow are trending away from us regardless of what year you compare to.

    ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

    by James Allen on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:24:01 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary. (5+ / 0-)

    "Truth catches up with you in here. It's the truth that's gonna make you hurt." - Piper Chapman

    by blueoregon on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 04:57:17 PM PDT

  •  Some of this surprises me. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen, RiveroftheWest
    •  I know that there have been attempts in the areas (0+ / 0-)

      around Portland and Salem, but I honestly don't know much about what goes on the other side of the mountains. I would assume that because we are not competitive for anything over there like the congressional or legislative districts, we aren't doing much. But we have grown reliant on moderate Republicans along the Columbia, and we would probably only help their position to work on turning Dems out. We basically have a non-aggression pact with Bob Jenson, on of the Umatilla area legislators who is a former Democrat, and now a moderate Republican.

      However, if we increased turnout substantially in Jefferson and Wasco counties, especially on Warm Springs, we could make state house district 59 a lot more competitive. And obviously like I said, it would help us lock down statewide elections to reduce Republican margins in Eastern Oregon.

      ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

      by James Allen on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 09:29:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Clarify wording? WA districts analysis? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen

        This is unclear to me:

        only help their position to work on turning Dems out
        Indeed a statewide lock and a ideally a legislative super-majority would be attractive.

        Have you seen a similar analysis done of Washington State legislative districts?

        •  sorry (0+ / 0-)

          I meant in how we are often working with the moderate Republicans there. The Dem Party hasn't officially done it, but unions and other groups have helped them in primaries, and some of the Dem nominees have put themselves up with the intention of only mounting a serious campaign if the moderate incumbents were defeated by more conservative candidates in primaries, because they liked the incumbents. The biggest threat to Jenson and the others is not defeat at the hands of us, but at the hands of the tea party. Having higher turnout of Democratic leaning groups will help them justify their moderation and provides more of a disincentive to primarying them, because we could then be a serious threat to a more conservative candidate.

          I haven't seen a comprehensive look at Washington, but I know that the Hispanic-majority district in the Yakima area is held by Republicans for the same reasons.

          ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

          by James Allen on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 10:40:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for clarity on situation & tactics; top 10 (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            James Allen


            I found this Bloomberg link confirming that the 10th highest Hispanic-population district (represented in Congress by a Republican) in the country is:

            – Washington’s 4th (37%): Doc Hastings, who leads the Natural Resources Committee, has a district that takes in Yakima as well as majority-Hispanic Franklin County in and around Pasco.
            Rankings 1st through 9th (none of them in Oregon) are reported as:
            – Florida’s 27th (73%)...

            – California’s 21st (72%)...President Barack Obama won 55 percent of the district vote in 2012...

            – Florida’s 25th (70%)...

            – New Mexico’s 2nd (52%)...

            – Texas’ 27th (51%)...

            – California’s 31st (49%)...backed Obama with 57 percent of the vote.

            – California’s 22nd (46%)...

            – California’s 10th (40%)...Obama won

            – California’s 25th (38%)...

            •  those would be congressional districts (0+ / 0-)

              I don't think any in Oregon are even close to 20% Hispanic, and the voting population is certainly much smaller.

              ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

              by James Allen on Sun Aug 25, 2013 at 09:46:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  now that I look (0+ / 0-)

        Jenson's district no longer has a large Hispanic population, after redistricting. The Hispanic communities in the area are mostly in Greg Smith's district.

        ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

        by James Allen on Sun Aug 25, 2013 at 10:02:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think the key to increasing non-white voting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen

    is for us to earn every vote we crave.

    I don't know that our Democratic lawmakers and party leaders take minority votes for granted, but it seems as if they do.

    While the policies which are preferred by diverse groups may have little to do, directly, with "race" we often do a poor job of explaining how helpful they are for non-whites. This can lead to a perception that voting has less relevance for people who feel less valued. Of course we frequently do just as poor a job of advertizing the benefits of policies for "whites," but that is not much consolation for everyone else.

    Beyond the slogan of working for a new world, the priorities of minority populations will produce not just a brighter future but also a better present. As Democrats we should not stop with exerting ourselves to achieve the worthy goals we share with many non-whites, we need to also be promoting leaders who emerge from those groups.

    One of my bigger concerns as an Oregonian and a life-long Democrat is that we haven't been attentive enough to our growing diversity. Rather than look to communities for votes we should look to them for solutions.

    Simply padding election results with votes from non-whites isn't nearly enough, we need to work together for progress based on ideas they share as well. Involving people who haven't traditionally been as involved (or listened to) is not only wise and just, it will also generate more enthusiasm than we can anticipate.

    It matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. Henry David Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience

    by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 09:22:37 AM PDT

    •  I absolutely agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Had Enough Right Wing BS

      I think there is some awareness of this among younger generations who are getting involved, though a lot of the levers of power in the party are held by older generations who are used to a state that is used to a state that is near racially homogenous.

      I also agree with something else you said: I think we need to find relatively young, ambitious people in these communities who are willing to do the work over a number of years, and then who can reap the benefit once we pass the tipping point. And we need to provide some resources for that effort.

      ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

      by James Allen on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 10:49:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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