Monday, October 13, 2008

No Local Primary Equals Lower Turnout or Average Turnout for Statewide Primary Except in Eastern Sussex

Voter turnout for the Delaware Democratic Primary was 27.8%. 18 of 41 Representative Districts had no local primaries. Voters statewide faced a ballot with only the Governor’s race, the Insurance Commissioner’s race and the race for the US House seat. Voters in New Castle County also had races for County Executive and County Council President.

Of these 18 districts, 12 had turnout in the Governor’s race under 27.8% with the 5th District and the 26th District ,both in the Bear area, having turnout below 20%. 3 Representative Districts had turnout over 27.8%,but less than 28.8%.
Three districts had turnout that exceeded 27.8% by at least 1 % point. All three of the districts that exceeded the average by more than a percentage point were in Eastern Sussex County: the 14th in the Lewes-Rehoboth area, the 37th which stretches from Lewes-Georgetown and the 36th which takes in Milton, Slaughter and Ellendale.

I have not had time to research the demographics, but the area has become a haven for large numbers of people from nearby states (Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania) which have a longer history of the use of primaries to settle political disputes. Delaware has only had statewide primaries instead of the Delaware Democratic Convention as the vehicle to determine who went on the ballot since the 1970s. It is possible these newcomers are more used to voting in primaries and so vote in higher numbers than native Delawareans. The validity of this theory may be easier to measure as more Census data becomes available.

I think it is notable that the 36th & 37th ,adjacent districts in Sussex with 3 offices on the ballot each had at least 10 % points more turnout than the 5th,18th,24th, and 26th districts in New Castle where there were 5 offices on the ballot.

In case you are thinking this stuff is an abstract discussion, here are what these districts did in the Governor’s primary:
5th Rep District Carney won by 91 votes
18th Rep District Carney won by 1 vote
24th Rep District Markell won by 75 votes
26th Carney won by 80 votes
36th Markell won by 307 votes
37th Markell won by 257 votes
In a race where 1,737 votes was the winning margin, having a 10% higher turnout in areas where Markell was strong may have been pivotal.

(Bear-Glasgow)5th RD-------18.3%--no local primaries
(MOT-near C&D Canal)8th RD-------21.9%-no local primaries
(Rehoboth-Lewes)14th RD------29.1%--no local primaries
(Stanton-Christiana)18th RD------22.0%--no local primaries
(Stanton-Newport)19th RD------28.7%--no local primaries
(Kirkwood Hwy-Rte 7)21st RD------28.5%--no local primaries
(outside Newark east of Salem Church Rd)24th RD------17.4%--no local primaries
(Bear-Christiana)26th RD------19.2%--no local primaries
(Kenton-Cheswold)29th RD------24.6%--no local primaries
(Harrington-Farmington)30th RD------21.2%--no local primaries
(Magnolia-Frederica)33rd RD------23.8%--no local primaries
(Camden-Wyoming)34th RD------23.5%--no local primaries
(Bridgeville-Greenwood-Georgetown)35th RD------23.1%--no local primaries
(Milton-Slaughter Beach-Elendale)36th RD------30.2%--no local primaries
(Lewes-Georgetown)37th RD------33.1%--no local primaries
(Ocean View-South Bethany)38th RD------28.6%--no local primaries
(Seaford-Blades)39th RD------24.1%--no local primaries
(Delmar-Bethel-Hardscrabble)40th RD------22.1%--no local primaries


Anonymous said...

Good work.

I know it took a little time. The lower turnout in the 5th and 26th are intriguing. That is an area of rapid development and much movement in and out of houses.

The voter listings are huge for that area, and overwhelmingly democratic.

Quite possibly those two area's voter's lists are rather heavy, and in need of a timely purging, but until they are cleared, the actual percentage of voters, although appearing lower as a percent, could be synchronous with the rest of the statewide contest.

John Tobin said...

Thanks for your comment and you may be on to something. As a Newark resident, I have long wondered whether the same applies in the 23rd & 25th where it appears people register during their college years ,vote once or twice and then remain on the rolls for years with no voting activity and are likely no longer in the area .
A timely purge would be a good housekeeping measure as long as it is not unduly partisan. I heard in Ohio the Republican Committee later had to apologize about being overly aggressive in purging after they advocated to have purged a man whose mail was being forwarded to his parent's home while he was deployed to Iraq.

A purge might be good as long as a scapel is used and not a meat cleaver.