- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Unaffiliated voters in Oregon still have time to register with a political party and vote in the May primary election, and the state will be mailing reminders to those voters explaining their options.

There are 540,000 unaffiliated voters statewide, according to Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins. Her office announced Wednesday that it will send mailers to voters this year laying out their options, which is atypical, reported The Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1Xy356g ).

Atkins’ office says they are sending out the one-page sheets because the Independent Party has decided to open its primary voting to unaffiliated voters during its first election as a major party in Oregon.

The Oregon Democratic and Republican parties will still have closed primaries, meaning only people registered as members of that party can participate.

The mailer tells nonaffiliated voters that they can do nothing and vote only in nonpartisan races in May, join a major party and vote in its primary or opt to participate in the Independent Party primary by requesting a ballot by April 26.

Unaffiliated voters make up 24 percent of registered voters in Oregon, up from 22 percent in 2001, and fewer voters are registering as Democrats or Republicans.

That trend is growing larger because of an automatic voter registration law known as “Motor Voter.” It has the state automatically register new voters as unaffiliated unless they choose a party or opt out of registration.

The law kicked in this year and so far, 86 percent of the new voters it registered are unaffiliated. Motor Voter is expected to cause Oregon’s voter rolls to swell by 400,000, an 18 percent increase.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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