I was having a friendly exchange about the recent turn out for the primary election with a Republican friend when he dropped this on me … “When it rains, Democrats don’t go out and vote.”
I pretty much have to agree with that analysis, but then it wasn’t raining on May 6. To get Democrats inspired to vote there needs to be a cause or an issue. Really, both sides are that way if you think about it.
Talking to people about the election turn out in the recent primary, most are appalled at the low turn out. There was a time 10 to 15 or so years ago I would have been too. But you have to understand the mechanics of elections. Sure we are an apathetic country when it comes to the polls but it is not as bad as people might make it out to be.
I remember writing a column 10-15 years ago raking people over the coals for not voting.
Come heck or high water there is always a certain group of Republicans and Democrats that vote in every election. These people in a primary election, like we just had, are most likely to vote straight tickets (all Rs or all Ds) in general elections. They are your core party people.
But let’s examine this past election. Unless you were in the Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington School District, there was not much on the ballot to get people excited about.
In Brown County, the Republican turn out (2,313) was about 1,000 more than Democrats. But even more revealing is that according to the numbers provided in this election there are now 6,019 registered Republicans compared to 2,593 registered Democrats. A whopping 68 percent of voters in Brown County are considered non-partisan or Independent (18,694).
Now let’s go back 10 years. To be fair, the 2004 primary had more going on than this past election. But, in 2004 there were 1,731 Republicans and 2,981 Democrats who voted. Independents numbered 21,489 and less than one percent of them voted. In 2004 there were 3,952 registered Democrats and 3,401 Republicans.
I think if you consider how much the county has grown in 10 years and how much partisan voting patterns have shifted you do see a decline in voting. Ten years ago, there was a 28 percent turn out in Brown County. This past May, 14 percent turned out. But, like I said, there was more on the ballot in 2004.
There are many reasons for the low turn out.
There was not much money spent on advertising in print or in broadcast. The lack of a constant reminder in the media that there was a primary, led people to fail to remember to vote.
Honestly, there was not much on the ballot for Republicans this time. A few committee members and a State Issue aside from the county-wide library levy and just a few local levies.
Democrats had to decide on a congressional candidate, but the small turn out indicates that people were either less than enthused by their choices or knew little about those running.
Independents could only vote on local levies, so they tend not to vote in primaries anyway.
If you want a good election turn outs there needs to be a lot of advertising and plenty of controversy. We will see what November brings us. In today’s world people have to be moved and unless there are some awe-inspiring moments in this coming election, don’t expect polls to be jam packed this November either.
Steve Triplett is the managing editor for this newspaper.