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David Steves the Register-Guard
Published: 11 October 2010

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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