Voter turnout in next week’s primary likely to be very low

Voter turnout in primary elections is always low, but with this year’s early primary coming up Tuesday, could it be as low as 10 percent?

The primary date was moved up a month by the Legislature, in response to a new federal law designed to make sure that overseas voters, including military personnel, have more time after the primary election to receive, fill out and then mail their absentee ballots for the November general election.

But after decades of a primary elections in September, will Minnesota voters remember to vote in August, before the State Fair and the kids go back to school?

An MPR story suggests only 10 to 12 percent of eligible voters could show up at the polls, which could mean the highly contested DFL primary for governor could be won with fewer 80,000 votes. It quotes David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University, saying that’s a cause for concern:

“Does that really speak for the broader membership of the DFL?” he asked. “That’s a real question there. I mean there [are] some real questions about democracy in terms of that small number.”

Schultz said he views the August primary as an experiment that state lawmakers will likely have to revisit if the voter numbers are too low.

Schultz spent several months looking at the potential impact of the primary change and bases his prediction on similar September-to-August moves made in Florida and Washington.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Jim Boyd on 08/05/2010 - 08:13 pm.

    Joe: It will be interesting to check the participation rate for Cook County, where we vote in the primary by mail ballot. The ballots arrived in mail boxes a week ago. I’ll wager the turnout will be higher, suggesting, perhaps, that mail ballots have a beneficial impact.

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