SALEM, Ore. — More than 6,000 Oregonians left the Republican Party in January 2021, the same month that pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol and the state party passed a resolution describing the insurrection as a “false flag” operation.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s office publishes voter registration data monthly. The latest data released Monday shows 6,145 people switched their registration to leave the Republican Party in January, a decline of 0.8% from December 2020.
Over that same period, total voter registration regardless of party grew by 6,264 people. From December 2020 to January 2021, unaffiliated registration grew by 8,573 people, Democratic registration grew by 147 people and the Independent Party added 3,011 people.
While it’s impossible to know the motivation for every person who left the Republican Party, the number of people leaving the party in January 2021 was significantly higher than the same period one year prior: between December 2019 and January 2020 Republican registration decreased by just 92 people.
Knute Buehler, a former Republican for governor and one of the most high-profile Republicans in Oregon, told the New York Times he changed his registration away from the party on the same night that party officials passed the “false flag” resolution.
Buehler described the decision as “very painful.”
An online voter registration database stills lists Buehler as a Republican, although a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said it could take several days for the system to update, especially if he made the change by mail.
Data from the Secretary of State’s office shows deflections from the GOP in January were distributed relatively evenly around the state. Party registration shrank in each of the state’s five congressional districts.
The smallest decline came from Oregon’s 2nd District, which is the only district represented by a Republican. It includes Central and Eastern Oregon. The district saw 1,293 people leave the party, which accounts for about 0.6% of the total registration.
The largest decline came in Oregon’s 1st District, which includes Portland’s western suburbs. That district saw 1,434 Republicans leave the party, a decline of 1.1% for the district.
As of February 1 there are now 753,195 registered Republicans and 1,048,511 registered Democrats in Oregon. The remaining 1,149,795 voters are either unaffiliated with a political party or a member of a minor party.
John Horvick with Portland-based research firm DHM Research tracks monthly voter registration changes in Oregon.
"if we go back the last five presidential elections it’s twice as big as any loss Republicans have faced," Horvick said.
Horvick said generally in Oregon both the Democratic and Republican Parties see similar gains and losses in voters. This month is significant because of the contrast between the parties.
Still, he cautioned against drawing any broader trends about the future of the GOP from this data, calling the loss a "small sliver" of the party.
"The story really is that despite or because of what has happened they're hanging on to the vast majority of their voters," Horvick said.