Voters all across the United States came out in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election—but in Deschutes County, turnout was slightly lower than the last presidential election year. At the same time, the county added nearly 30,000 voters to its rolls this time around. Turnout in 2016 in Deschutes County was 82.04%, according to the Deschutes County Clerk, with 122,216 voters on the rolls. In 2020, 80.89% of eligible voters cast a ballot, among 152,181 eligible voters in the county.
Back in 2016, Deschutes County voters favored Donald Trump, with 46.36% of the county’s votes, compared to 43.07% for Hillary Clinton. In 2020, voters in the county favored Joe Biden, with 52.66% of the votes compared to Trump’s 44.51%. That trend seems to mimic the overall shift in the county toward more Democrat voters. In 2020, a majority of voters were registered as Democrats as of November, with 47,767 registered Democrats, 46,377 registered Republicans and 46,555 non-affiliated voters. Compare that to the Deschutes County Clerk’s numbers from November 2016, when, among 122,892 voters, 38,893 voters registered as Democrats, 41,494 registered as Republicans and 32,026 were non-affiliated voters. Mind you, Oregon implemented its “motor voter” program in 2016—which automatically registers those who renew or apply for a driver’s license.
Changing demographics could have played at least some part in the shifts in Central Oregon’s representation in Salem. In 2016, Oregon Sen. Tim Knopp edged out Democrat Eileen Kiely, taking home 50.73% of the vote to Kiely’s 49.09% in the latest unofficial tally. In the Oregon House 54 race, Democrat Jason Kropf won over incumbent Republican Cheri Helt, with 60.09% of the vote over Helt’s 38.87%. Republicans prevailed in House 54, however, with incumbent Jack Zika taking 57.06% of the vote compared to 42.79% for Democrat Emerson Levy. In statewide elections, voter support was mixed in Deschutes County this time around. In the Secretary of State race, Deschutes County voters supported Republican Kim Thatcher with 48.73% of the vote in the county to Democrat Shemia Fagan’s 45.53%. Fagan won the statewide tally. Republican challenger Jeff Gudman got a bigger share of Deschutes County’s votes in the State Treasurer race, too, with 46.83% of the vote to Democrat Tobias Read’s 46.70%. Read won his race. And in the race for Oregon’s Congressional District 2, Republican Cliff Bentz took home 51.15% of Deschutes County’s votes, compared to 45.94% for Democrat Alex Spenser. Bentz won the race, replacing longtime Rep. Greg Walden, a fellow Republican. In statewide measures, Deschutes County voters were aligned with statewide support, voting majority-yes for Measures 107, 108, 109 and 110.