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Spin Control

Tue., Sept. 28, 2010, 5:08 p.m.

Younger voters stayed away in droves in primary

If you don't like the choices produced by Washington's Aug. 17 primary, you have two choices:
* Blame voters over 55, who cast most of the ballots.
* Blame under 35, who cast hardly any of them.
Figures released Tuesday by the Washington Secretary of State's office show more than 60 percent of the ballots were cast by voters 55 and over. Only one voter in 10 was under 35.
While older voters are always more likely to cast ballots than younger voters, the primary numbers were more skewed than usual, state elections officials said.
"They're not good," Nick Handy, state elections director, said.
Broken down into age brackets, the turnout for the primary looks like this for the state (and Spokane County, which are nearly identical, are included in parenthesis)

18-24  4%  (4%)
25-34  6%  (6%)
35-44 10%  (10%)
45-54 19%  (20%)
55-64 26%  (27%)
65+     34%  (34%)

Older citizens have long been known to be more likely to register, and vote, Handy said. The rule of thumb is that 20 percent of 20 year-olds vote, 30 percent of 30-year-old, 40 percent of 40-year-olds, and so on.
The correlation between age and voting is pretty easy to understand, he added. Younger voters are less likely to be invested in political decisions because they don't own property and don't have children in school, and they tend to move around more.
And not much changes that from one year to the next. For all the talk about how Barack Obama energized young voters in 2008, the results didn't really bear that out, Handy said.
"There was a small blip in turnout, but not anything dramatically out of the historic patterns."
Still, the fact that only 10 percent of voters in this year's primary were under 35 was a surprise to state officials. It may be that the primary ballot just didn't have much to draw them in, Handy said.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.