On it’s face, the recent wins for Democratic candidates in Oregon House races indicate growing strength for the Dems here in Washington County. That assumption appears to be confirmed by the county election statistics showing Washington County Democratic registered voters numbered 109,125 in October, 2010 and increased to 114,435 by October, 2012. An increase of 4.8%
But, as government budgeteers like to remind us, increases need to be put in context of increases in population. When you do that, a good argument can be made that the Washington County Democratic Party is in as much trouble as the Republican Party.
During the October, 2010 – October 2012 time period, total registered voters went from 268,653 to 292,271. An increase of 8.8%. If the Democratic share had kept up with the rate of total voters there should be 118,728 registered Democrats (109,125 x 1.088). The Democrats are short 4,293 members.
Meanwhile the Wash. Co. Republican Party has experienced some similar issues. Its total registered voters in the county went from 85,899 in October 2010 to 89,650 in October 2012. A raw increase of 3,751, but only a 4.4% increase. Again, if it had kept up with total registration growth, it should have had 93,458 registered voters, so the Republicans are short 3,808 voters.
Importantly, the Democratic party has lost more percentage wise than the Republican Party. In 2010 it had a market share edge over Republicans of 40.6% to 32% . an 8.6% advantage. In 2012, it’s edge was 39.1% to 30.7%. Its advantage had shrunk to 8.4%. Still a significant edge, but shrinking.
Meanwhile, from October, 2010 to October, 2012 the Independent Party of Oregon increased its share of Washington County voters from 7,642 to 11,865. That’s a total increase of 55%. And its actual increase of 4,223 registered voters surpasses the total growth in the Republican Party during the same period, and almost matches the total Democratic growth.
As long as we have first to the finish elections, where people are convinced with some justification that voting for anyone other than an R or a D is a wasted vote, minor parties won’t be a major election force. But the canary in the coal mine isn’t the growth of a minor party like the IPO. It’s the decreasing market share by the major parties.
There is a problem with our major parties. Right now, it isn’t so obvious because of limited choices voters have at the ballot box (Or mailbox in Oregon). But the story is being told by registration statistics. If anyone would pay attention.