02-19-2017  6:16 pm      •     

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- When a volunteer offered to help Rebecca Stiehl register to vote, the University of Oregon senior was eager to sign up.
Stiehl, who had written ``register!'' on her hand before heading to campus, took hold of the volunteer's clipboard and filled out a form with her new address, ensuring that she was registered properly to receive a ballot for the Nov. 2 election.
But Stiehl did have a confession for volunteer and fellow student Nathan Howard as they stood on a sidewalk on the UO campus. The reminder inked onto her hand had nothing to do with the upcoming election; it was meant to ensure she changed her course schedule before that day's cutoff.
``Honestly, it hasn't even crossed my mind yet,'' Stiehl said when asked about the upcoming vote.
With Tuesday's deadline approaching to be registered in time for next month's election, Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan student groups are hustling to get as many would-be voters qualified to receive a ballot in the mail when they go out Friday.
Eugene, with its large college-age population, is one of Oregon's major hubs for such activities. That was evident in the number of volunteers working the crowd at last week's Street Faire on the UO campus and by Thursday's ``Floats and Votes'' event at Lane Community College, where Oregon Students Association members proffered free root beer floats while offering to register fellow students as voters.
Some of the voter registration volunteers say they're finding people as willing as ever to register -- as long as they get a little nudge. Others, such as Katie Taylor, say signing up new voters for the 2010 midterm election isn't as easy as it was for the presidential election of 2008.
``Obama really helped us out a lot in 2008,'' said Taylor, who volunteered with that year's voter registration drive at LCC and this year is a UO student passing out registration cards through the nonpartisan Student Vote Coalition. ``This time it seems like young people are a lot more weary.''
Compared with 2008, voters of all ages aren't exactly stampeding to register for the November election. So far this year, the number of registered voters has declined statewide by 14,997 through September, according to the Oregon Elections Division. In Lane County, the number of voters fell by 601 in that nine-month period. In both cases, the declines were less than 1 percent.
Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, said this year's voter-registration trends are typical for a midterm election, when the ticket is topped by candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, but the buzz-generating presidential race is still two years away.
Rosenfeld, who previously headed the national New Voters Project, said that in 2008, "We'd never seen anything like that at that scale organized by a political party and we're not seeing that right now,'' he said.
Two years ago, Oregon's voter registration spiked by 22 percent statewide and 24 percent within Lane County. In both areas, Democrats reaped nearly all those voter-registration gains along with big November wins in the presidential, congressional and state legislative races.
Democrats, who started 2008 with 39 percent of Oregon's registered voters compared with the GOP's 35 percent, arrived at that year's Election Day with 43 percent to the Republicans< 32 percent. In Lane County, it went from a 43 percent to 31 percent Democratic edge to a 48 percent to 28 percent advantage over the Republicans.
Democratic registration in Oregon and Lane County is down just slightly this year while the number of Republican voters is virtually unchanged. The Democrats< gains two years ago still give them a big numerical advantage on paper as Election Day 2010 draws near.
Oregon's latest voter registration numbers show Democratic party affiliation among 42 percent of voters statewide to the Republicans< 32 percent. In Lane County, 46 percent of voters are Democrats and 28 percent are Republicans.
Charles Dalton, chairman of the Democratic Party of Lane County, said he hopes that, as long as the nonaffiliated and Independent voters divide their votes evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates, his party's 2008 voter registration boon will deliver Democrats to victory again next month.
Lane County Republican Chairman Bill Young said he is counting on his party's momentum this year to motivate Republican turnout that exceeds the participation rate among Democrats. Young said he also hopes dissatisfaction with the ruling party among Independent and nonaffiliated voters will bring a disproportionate share of their support to GOP candidates.
But neither party is taking those perceived advantages for granted, cranking up their get-out-the-vote efforts to identify those who are likely to support their candidates who haven't returned their mail-in ballots and encourage them to do so.
Talking about her own approach to the upcoming election, Stiehl, the newly reregistered voter from the University of Oregon, seemed to confirm the importance of running vigorous get-out-the-vote efforts.
She said she wants to be a ``good citizen'' but has yet to study up on the issues and candidates. Without encouragement to fill out and return her ballot, Stiehl said, ``there's probably a good chance I won't vote.''

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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