PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The big push is under way to get out the vote on a pair of Oregon tax measures that would raise $727 million from the wealthy and corporations.
The big question is whether supporters or opponents will be helped more by higher voter turnout on Measures 66 and 67 in the Tuesday special election.
Tax measures have a poor track record with Oregon voters, who have generally rejected them over most of the past two decades.
The most recent polling indicates the race has tightened in the past week.
Measure 66 increases taxes for households with taxable incomes higher than $250,000, and singles with taxable incomes higher than $125,000. Measure 67 increases corporate taxes in a variety of ways.
Both sides say they are working the phones and going door to door across the state to press as many voters as possible into getting their ballots to county drop boxes before Tuesday, now that it is generally too late to put them in the mail.
"We think turnout is everything," said Greg Leo, spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party.
The GOP is organizing the opposition turnout effort in the final days of the campaign begun by Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes, led by Pat McCormick.
Leo says competition is intense and campaign tactics have become very sophisticated to reach voters who need to be reminded to cast their ballots, or undecideds who need that final nudge.
"Most people have their minds made up," Leo said.
But supporters of the tax measures hope a big turnout will favor them, especially with younger voters and voters who got more involved with politics during the 2008 presidential election - typically more liberal in their outlook and more likely to back a tax increase for public services.
"Often late voters are younger voters," said Elana Guiney, spokeswoman for the Vote Yes for Oregon campaign to approve the tax measures.
The Oregon Secretary of State's office is predicting turnout at about 62 percent to 64 percent - relatively high for a special election.
But the vote through Thursday was about 40 percent statewide, with the county with the largest population, Multnomah, lagging a little behind at under 38 percent, officials said.
Don Hamilton, spokesman for Secretary of State Kate Brown, said voters are more likely to hold on to their ballots longer as they have gotten accustomed to voting by mail.
"So often we get a big spike at the end," Hamilton said. "I'm pretty sure we'll see a spike in returns this time too."
Veteran political observers see mixed signals in the turnout so far.
Jim Moore, political science professor at Pacific University, says many voters suffering from the long recession and a potentially jobless recovery may be more worried about losing public services than in the past.
"People are seeing real changes in the quality of government services," Moore said.
"So it's not clear if a higher turnout is kind of 'tea party' people saying, 'Yeah, government needs to be smaller so let's vote no on these things,' or if higher turnout is people panicking, saying, 'My kids are going to come home from school 10 days earlier."'
Sandra Morgen, a University of Oregon anthropology professor who studies tax activism, said opponents who have counted on generally reliable no votes in the past have had to work harder to counter fears about losing jobs and a higher demand for public services than previous tax elections.
"In the past, the groups that are more anti-tax have not been so grass roots in terms of mobilizing," Morgen said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)