Elections

Oregon will hold its anticlimactic presidential primary this Tuesday

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and his pre­de­ces­sor Don­ald Trump are locks to win their respec­tive pri­maries in Ore­gon on Tues­day night. Both can­di­dates are already their party’s pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee, hav­ing earned more than 50% of avail­able delegates.

Some Ore­go­ni­ans dis­sat­is­fied with Biden’s han­dling of the war in Gaza have called upon vot­ers to express “uncom­mit­ted” as their pres­i­den­tial pref­er­ence on Tuesday. 

Sim­i­lar move­ments have sprung up across the coun­try, with over 100,000 sup­port­ing the effort in Michi­gan, a state with a large Arab Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. In Wash­ing­ton State, just under 10% of vot­ers cast their bal­lot for uncommitted.

“We’re writ­ing in uncom­mit­ted on our Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry bal­lot to tell Biden, you don’t get our vote until you imple­ment an imme­di­ate and per­ma­nent cease­fire,” sub­jects say in a video on Uncom­mit­ted Oregon’s web­site.

How­ev­er, despite nation­wide cov­er­age of the move­ment, uncom­mit­ted vot­ers have secured just 27 of the over 3,500 del­e­gates allo­cat­ed in the pri­ma­ry process so far. But with a close elec­tion con­sid­ered to be the most like­ly sce­nario, even minor elec­toral dynam­ics will mat­ter. Pres­i­dent Biden won three swing states in 2020 by a com­bined 43,000 votes.

The Beaver State will send a total of sev­en­ty-eight del­e­gates to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Chica­go, six­ty-six of which will be allo­cat­ed using Tuesday’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry results. Forty-four of the del­e­gates will be allo­cat­ed pro­por­tion­al­ly based on can­di­dates’ vote share in Oregon’s six con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts, while the remain­ing twen­ty-two will be decid­ed based on statewide results.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­gate allo­ca­tion rules make it unlike­ly that any­one oth­er than Biden will win sig­nif­i­cant rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the 2024 con­ven­tion — while the state par­ty allo­cates del­e­gates pro­por­tion­al­ly, can­di­dates must meet a min­i­mum thresh­old of 15% of votes.

The remain­ing twelve auto­mat­ic del­e­gates (also known as superdel­e­gates or unpledged del­e­gates) are com­prised of state par­ty lead­ers and elect­ed offi­cials, includ­ing the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of Con­gress and governor. 

While sig­nif­i­cant atten­tion has been giv­en to auto­mat­ic del­e­gates in the past, their pow­ers have been reduced in recent years, as the nation­al par­ty elim­i­nat­ed their right to vote on the first bal­lot at the con­ven­tion except in the case that their pref­er­ence aligns with that of the major­i­ty of pledged delegates.

On the Repub­li­can side, Trump is all but guar­an­teed to take the state’s thir­ty-one del­e­gates at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Convention. 

The state par­ty will elect its del­e­gates at a con­ven­tion on May 25th, but they are expect­ed to be allo­cat­ed on a win­ner-take-all basis to Tuesday’s vic­tor. Three of the thir­ty-one del­e­gates are auto­mat­ic but pledged to the win­ner of the pri­ma­ry contest.

As read­ers know, Trump has no active oppo­nents left, in Ore­gon or elsewhere. 

While for­mer South Car­oli­na gov­er­nor and Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations Nik­ki Haley has con­sis­tent­ly earned votes since drop­ping out in ear­ly March, she will not appear on Tuesday’s bal­lot. Haley had gar­nered around 20% in the May 14th Mary­land Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry as of Wednes­day afternoon.

Ore­gon votes at home, but turnout isn’t expect­ed to be very high. Turnout rates in pri­maries are almost always low rel­a­tive to gen­er­al elec­tions, but the lack of com­pe­ti­tion and enthu­si­asm in this year’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­test has been evi­dent across the coun­try. Only New Hamp­shire, a small ear­ly pri­ma­ry state, has cracked 40% turnout of the vot­ing-eli­gi­ble pop­u­la­tion, accord­ing to data from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da.

For those watch­ing pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing results roll in on Tues­day night, there will be a lot of votes count­ed for Biden and Trump, and not much else. The inter­est­ing results will be at the con­gres­sion­al and state lev­els, for Ore­gon is also hold­ing its state-lev­el pri­ma­ry at the same time as its pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry, unlike its neighbors.

Owen Averill

Owen Averill is the Northwest Progressive Institute's Federal Correspondent and an aficionado of all things Washington State. His professional experience includes internships on Capitol Hill, for Democratic congressional campaigns, and at the Brookings Institution. When he’s not writing about Washingtonians in D.C., he is running, reading, watching the Sounders, or catching up on Irish politics.

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