The Democratic primary got 46x greater turnout than Republicans’.

With 319,130 ballots cast yesterday, 6.4% of the electorate turned out to vote among the Democrats.

With 7,000 delegates having shown up to their convention, Republicans got 00.138% of the electorate to show.

Which party is it, again, that’s having trouble connecting with Virginians, as evidenced by low turnout? Because I get confused.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

16 replies on “The Democratic primary got 46x greater turnout than Republicans’.”

  1. Then again, everyone knew who the Republican nominees (for Guv & Lt.Guv, at least) were going to be. Down-ticket races have a harder time attracting interest.

    Plus, it’s much easier to take 10 minutes to go to a local school or wherever than to take a whole day to travel down to a convention. Not like you could just hope over there after work to cast a vote. :-)

  2. Had the Republican nomination for Gov been in doubt, I’m still fairly certain that they wouldn’t have had 320,000 people attend their quaint little convention.

  3. I really like Virginia’s open primary system. I think it helps promote candidates who are more likely to appeal to most of our citizens, regardless of the candidate’s party of origin.

    Yes the Democratic primary had almost a 7% turn-out. Yes the GOP had a rigged, irrelevant “convention.” Neither Party should be pleased with such meager voter interest.

    My point regarding the 7% figure is that we should not accept such a lame voter turn-out, based on the premise that we have sucked even worse in some prior elections.

    93% of the voters just didn’t care to participate, or decided for various reasons that their participation would not matter.

    We should all be wary of the implication of low voter participation. It sends a strong message to the candidates that they needn’t bother appealing to many segments of society, and most disturbing, it reinforces the idea that Americans are just a bunch of sheep who are too apathetic or incapable of self governance.

    We need to try some new approaches to get Americans involved in their local governance. One idea that I support is the creation of an election-day lottery, for every statewide contest, where each voter would receive a lottery ticket for a special election-day drawing. We could fund such a program through the Virginia Lottery and the prize could be twenty-five million dollars spread between winners, one each, from the respective Congressional districts.

    Such a program would initially attract people to the polls just for the lottery, but once they returned to the voting habit, the citizens will be more likely to retain interest in the elections and various ballot initiatives.

    The Obama election showed that Americans can be coaxed back to the polls, but that took a really rotten eight years under the fascist regime of Bush to make that happen. An election-day lottery would be fun and it would promote much greater citizen involvement in our political process.

  4. J. Tyler, your lotto idea:

    I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with just giving away money for voting. I want my electorate to be knowledgable about the issues and candidates. A lotto system would probably boost turnout, but not the kind of turnout we want. Quality trumps quantity.

  5. The quality of voter issue has been hashed over before when we have discussed the election-day lottery idea in other forums. The initial attraction may result in slightly more of the Sarah Palin trailer park trash sorts. However, just as some are attracted to horse racing, but have no knowledge of horses, with time, those racing enthusiasts invariably make a greater effort to educate themselves about the strengths and weaknesses of the contestants in the race, and so shall be the case with new voters who are initially attracted to the polls by an election-day lottery.

    Or the whole idea could be a total bust. That is why I have advocated for a pilot test of the election-day lottery, prior to going state-wide with the idea.

    Let’s face it, Black pastors have been handing out, “Walking around money” (usually $10 per voter) to get their flocks to the polls here in Virginia ever since Reconstruction. In communities like Hampton, where I used to live, the phrase, “It pays to vote Democratic” truly had a double meaning. If you were a member of one of the local Black churches, you could expect a little walking around money on election day, at least for the big contests.

    Why not provide some sort of incentive, to all of our citizens, in the form of an election-day lottery?

    Perhaps this sort of approach could be expanded so that we all would get paid for every robo-call that comes to our home and we would get paid to listen to their canned stump speeches, too! Debates could still be gratis, of course.

  6. To win the Governor’s race 4 years ago required 912,328 votes (1 more than Kilgore received). Based on that logic, Democrats identified almost 35% of who they need in November yesterday. Primaries are a no-brainer.

  7. Tyler, I’d said half or more of those 93% have a good reason for not voting: they don’t consider themselves Democrats, and so didn’t think they should vote in a Democratic primary.

  8. Based on that logic, Democrats identified almost 35% of who they need in November yesterday. Primaries are a no-brainer.

    Democrats identified them, huh? I don’t recall giving my name and address when I voted for Deeds.

  9. I.Publius,

    Although they don’t know that you voted for Deeds, you did provide your name and address before you voted, right? So, now you’re on record as having voted in a Democratic primary. You’ve been identified. Welcome to the party of the big tent.

  10. Yes, the fact that you voted in this Democratic primary is a matter of public record. Those walk sheets campaign volunteers use going door to door indicate which previous elections and primaries each person has voted in, and the primary voting history is one of the ways campaigns try to figure out what party you’re likely to vote for, given Virginia’s lack of party registration.

  11. J. Tyler,

    Only about 40% of Virginians, at the most, self-identify as Democrats. But as you know there is no party registration in Virginia and we have open primaries, so the official numbers on turnout percentage are based on the total number of registered voters, regardless of whether those people are Democrats, independents or Republicans.

    This means that turnout was more like 17.5 – 20%. Pretty typical for a state-level primary. I do not understand why you are complaining about the fact that 93% of the voters did not participate. If one does not consider one’s self a member of a given party, then there is a very rational argument to be made that they should not participate in that party’s primary election process.

    I’m not condemning any independent or Republican who did participate in our primary. Just saying that it is perfectly reasonable for them to choose not to and that there is no need for some big campaign to convince them all to do it.

    Regarding general election turn-out, I’m right there with you. Either 7 or 17% would be an embarrassingly low figure.

  12. Waldo, your math is off. I think you meant 0.138%, not 0.00138%, and thus the headline should have 46x (or maybe 4,600%), not 4,600x.

    You’re absolutely right, KC—what an egregious mistake! 46 times greater turnout is an enormous difference, but it sure seems small next to 4,600x. :) I’ve corrected this blog entry, but clearly I’ll need a brain correction, too. The mistake was a result of doing the math, but then not moving the decimal over two places as is required when converting from percentages.

  13. Harry, I would offer one minor, but important, caveat:

    I identified myself as aligning with Virginia Democrats, due to Creigh Deeds being in the race. The national party is anything BUT a big tent.

  14. You take some pretty big logic leaps here. Most people can go to the polls on the way to/from work; travel to Richmond, with hotel and gas and food (at the Coliseum, no less, where you can’t even drink water they haven’t sold at $3/bottle) costs a pretty penny and involves time.

    How many of those voters were non-democrats? I know of at least half a dozen of us independents in my precinct who voted.

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