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Primary turnout even lower than expected — with exceptions

Mike Mullen//August 15, 2012

Primary turnout even lower than expected — with exceptions

Mike Mullen//August 15, 2012

Jason Metsa won the House 6B DFL primary, and will attempt to defend retiring DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina's seat in November. (Submitted photo)

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie predicted a low voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary election, putting his estimate at around 15 percent participation from eligible voters. As it turns out, the state didn’t even reach that number.

Early estimates from the secretary of state’s office show only 9 percent turnout from eligible voters statewide, and 11 percent among registered voters. The anemic attendance rate came despite contested Congressional primaries for Republicans in the First District, where Allen Quist topped State Sen. Mike Parry, and Democrats in the Eighth District, which was won by Rick Nolan, not to mention a Republican U.S. Senate primary,  which Kurt Bills won for the chance to challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

If state legislative primaries exhibited any trickle-down effect from upper-ballot contests, it came in CD 8,  where the DFL primary for House District 6B recorded the highest percentage turnout of any single partisan primary. Fully 25 percent of registered voters in the progressive stronghold voted in the DFL legislative primary, which saw Jason Metsa win the right to defend retiring Rep. Tom Rukavina‘s seat. (House 11B saw 32 percent of registered voters cast ballots, but both parties held primaries in that district.)

Ritchie said the low mark wasn’t much of a surprise, given how the contests at hand compared to prior years such as 2010, when nearly 16 percent of eligible voters showed up for primaries.

“There were no hot races that garnered any high interest,” Ritchie said. “In the last [election] year, 2010, there was a very hot governor’s primary in one party. In this year, there were no hot statewide races at all.”

Tuesday’s mark should not be taken as a predictor for November, Ritchie added, when Minnesota will get a chance to defend its reputation as the undisputed national champions of voter turnout. He noted that the state’s turnout for the general election is “always in the upper 70’s in a presidential year, and typically we’re five points above the second place state.”

In most cases, unsurprisingly, higher-profile primary contests yielded better turnout numbers. Here is a full rundown of registered voter turnout for partisan primaries in the 10 races to watch highlighted in Politics in Minnesota’s most recent Weekly Report; note, however, that these numbers reflect the turnout of registered voters; they would be lower if, like the secretary of state’s estimate, they were based on eligible voters.

House District 6B

DFL candidates: Jason Metsa (winner, 53.6 percent), Lorrie Janatopolous (41.3 percent) Dave Meyer (5 percent)

GOP candidates: Jesse Colangelo (winner, 64.3 percent), Dan Darbo

Total votes cast: 7,217

Registered voter turnout: 29 percent

House District 11B

DFL candidates: Tim Faust (winner, 62.6 percent), Nathan Johnson

GOP candidates: Ben Wiener (winner, 57.4 percent), Mitch Pangerl

Total votes cast: 6,723

Registered voter turnout: 32.5 percent

Senate District 17

DFL candidates: Lyle Koenen (winner, 57.2 percent) Larry Rice

GOP candidate: Joe Gimse

Total votes: 6,768

Registered voter turnout: 15.6 percent

House District 17B

DFL candidates: Mary Sawatzky (winner, 65.9 percent), Jessica Rohloff

GOP candidates: Bruce Vogel

Independence candidate: Zachary Liebl

Total votes: 3,777

Registered voter turnout: 17.6 percent

House District 24A

DFL candidate: Craig Brenden

GOP candidates: John Petersburg (winner, 66.1 percent), Larry Johnson

Total votes cast: 2,735

Registered voter turnout: 12.7 percent

Senate District 33

GOP Candidates: Dave Osmek (winner, 50.9 percent), Connie Doepke

DFL candidates: Judy Rogoesheske

Total votes: 6,850

Registered voter turnout: 13 percent

House District 33B

GOP candidates: Cindy Pugh (winner, 70.3 percent), Steve Smith

DFL candidates: Denise Bader

Total votes: 3,881

Registered voter turnout: 14.7 percent

House District 43A

DFL candidates: Peter Fischer (winner, 53.7 percent), Bob Hill

GOP candidates: Stacey Stout

Total votes cast: 3,632

Registered voter turnout: 15 percent

Senate District 47

GOP candidates: Julianne Ortman (winner, 58.4 percent), Bruce Schwichtenburg

DFL candidate: James Weygand

Total votes: 4,442

Registered voter turnout: 9.6

House District 59B

DFL candidates: Raymond Dehn (winner, 37.1 percent), Terra Cole (36.3 percent), Ian Alexander (26.6 percent)

GOP candidates: Gary Mazzotta (winner, 55 percent), Bill McGaughey

Total votes cast: 2,537

Registered voter turnout: 12.5 percent

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