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Posts tagged: turnout

Varying turnout meant some legislative incumbents were defeated by tiny slices of electorate…

Widely varying turnout around the state meant that of the six legislative incumbents defeated in the May 20 primary, two were turned out of office by just tiny slices of the electorates in their districts. The lowest-turnout races that dumped incumbents were the defeat of longtime Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, the Senate Education Committee chairman, by activist Mary Souza – in which just 3,440 people cast ballots, 15 percent of registered voters; and the defeat of freshman Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, by Eric Redman, in which 4,736 people voted, 18.5 percent of the registered voters in the district.

Goedde’s districts has 22,545 registered voters; Morse’s has 25,604.

GOP primary voters also ousted longtime Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Senate Resources Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth; longtime Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis; and freshman Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg. But those races saw considerably higher turnout. Hancey’s race had close to the state average turnout in the race, at 25 percent of registered voters. Barrett’s had 32 percent – 8,356 total ballots cast – in her defeat by rancher Merrill Beyeler; and Pearce’s saw 31.5 percent turnout in his defeat by Abby Lee. BSU professor emeritus Jim Weatherby said both Beyeler and Lee ran strong campaigns in their districts.

In Eskridge’s race, there was 29 percent turnout and a total of 7,166 ballots cast as voters chose tea party challenger Sage Dixon to replace the longtime lawmaker and joint budget committee member. Eskridge noted two factors: Tea party opponents had been organizing and campaigning against the incumbents in his district for months; and the ballot included two hotly contested local levies, one for West Bonner schools that passed by 22 votes, and one to expand the Bonners Ferry library, which failed. “I think a lot of the people that came out in opposition to the levy voted against us,” he said.

Incumbent Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, won her primary by a 487-vote margin; retiring Rep. Eric Anderson’s race saw a tea party candidate, Heather Scott, victorious in the GOP primary over Stephen Snedden, who’d been endorsed by Gov. Butch Otter. Eskridge said while opponents were highly motivated, he also heard from some of his supporters that they weren’t willing to vote in the primary because they didn’t like being forced to publicly register their party affiliation under the GOP’s closed primary rule. “One said, ‘I refused to sign my name as a Republican, even though that’s what I am,’” he said.

Vote today - fight the trend toward decreasing turnout in Idaho primary elections…

At my local polling place this morning, things seemed pretty slow. There were one or two other voters there when I arrived; none when I left. Poll workers said it’d been steady all morning, with a slow but near-constant trickle of voters showing up; there was no before-work rush. There certainly were no lines.

Voter turnout in Idaho’s primary elections has been declining for years, even as general-election turnout has remained relatively strong. Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is projecting a turnout of 27 percent today, which would be an improvement from the 24 percent of registered voters who cast ballots two years ago, but only back up to the 2010 level. In the 2012 general election, turnout was 74 percent of registered voters.

Ten years ago, in 2004, primary turnout was 26.8 percent, general election was 76.8 percent. In 1994, primary turnout was 33.3 percent, general was 67 percent.

“The numbers in terms of turnout are very discouraging,” said Boise State University professor emeritus Jim Weatherby. “When it comes to the general election, people in Idaho seem to think that’s the real election, and in many races it isn’t. In 1980, 34 years ago, there were 200,000 ballots cast (in the primary).” At that point, with Idaho’s lower population, that was a 41.34 percent turnout. “I think we’re hoping, 34 years later, that there will be 200,000 ballots cast or a few more,” Weatherby said, to make 27 percent. “It’s a sad commentary on our level of participation in primary elections, and they’ve been dropping over the years – when in many races this is the de facto election. That’s true in a one-party state.”

Time to vote…

There was a half-hour wait to vote at my polling place this morning; one guy ahead of me in line gave up and left. A young mom with first-grader in tow waited all the way through the line, only to find out she wasn't in the book, though this was where she'd always voted; after much scrutinizing of maps, she was sent to a different polling place. There's high interest in today's election; many people's polling places have changed due to redistricting (mine had). You can confirm your polling place online before you go by going to www.idahovotes.gov and entering your address.

Lines are likely today if you go during the busiest times - before work, during the noon hour, or after 5, so allow time. (Oddly, at my polling place, the line was much longer for those whose names begin with A though L - I was one of the lucky M-through-Z'ers). And the ballot itself is quite long - two full legal-sized pages, front and back.

Gary Moncrief, a Boise State University political scientist who studies elections, said, “Turnout is going to be huge.” Asked his advice to voters, Moncrief said, “Bring a lunch - bring a snack. You may be in line a long time.”
  

Official turnout: Lowest since ‘78

Idaho’s state Board of Canvassers met today to certify the results of the Nov. 2 election, and here’s the news: Just 58.1 percent of Idaho’s registered voters cast ballots. That’s the lowest turnout for a midterm election since 1978 (that year it was 56.51 percent), and well below the Idaho Secretary of State’s office forecast of 63 percent. That forecast, based in part on heavy early voting and fairly high interest in candidates and issues, simply was off, said Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, and it’s not clear why. The percentage of Idaho’s voting-age population that cast ballots, based on the official results and U.S. Census figures, came in at 40 percent, Hurst said. “It’s still the lowest in years,” he said. “People just for some reason didn’t show up. We’ve always talked about how candidates and issues are what get people out to vote, and we had candidates, we had issues, and nobody voted. I don’t have an explanation.”

One piece of good news from the final canvass of the election results: Nothing changed from the unofficial results the morning after the election. That means Idaho’s election-night count was accurate. Turnout figures as a percentage of registered voters aren’t apparent in those early results, because Idaho has same-day registration.

Strong turnout predicted Tuesday

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s election, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is predicting strong voter turnout for a non-presidential year election, with 63 to 64 percent of registered voters casting ballots, “which would be our highest non-presidential year turnout since ‘94.”
 
“Candidates and issues make turnout,” Ysursa said, “and I think we’ve got competitive races out there that are driving the turnout.”     Among the many decisions awaiting Idaho voters are whether to keep or replace the state’s governor and members of Congress, four state constitutional amendments, races for an array of county and statewide offices, and votes on every seat in the state Legislature. There’s more information on all of those in our online Voter Guide here; and there’s info for voters on the state’s voter information site here.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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