With last week’s primary ballots mostly counted, I think it’s safe to take a look at voter turnout and speculate how it might have been influenced by the yawning “voter enthusiasm gap” that Republicans are counting on to sweep them to victory this November. And in fact voters turned out in far greater in Republican areas of the state than they did in dark blue King County, a fact that would seem to bode well for the Part of No this November.
While King County barely turned out 37 percent of registered voters, compared to almost 42 percent in the rest of the state, that differential is pretty typical for Washington state in even-year primary elections. (Odd years are a different beast, when competitive city and county races sustain voter interest in King, while much less is at stake in most of the rest of the state.) For example, in 2006, King County’s primary voter turnout trailed the rest of the state by 36 percent to 40 percent, and in 2008, when Democrats arguably held the enthusiasm edge, the turnout gap was even greater, 35 percent to 46 percent.
What does that mean for November? Who knows? For one, such a top-line analysis does nothing to evaluate who turned out within each county, though it is reasonable to assume from various contests that the electorate trended a bit more Republican than usual. Neither does the primary electorate tell us a lot about what the electorate will necessarily look like in November, though historically, Democrats tend to turn out in higher percentages in the general, though slightly less so during non-presidential years.
But what I can confidently say is that the primary turnout differential itself provides little or no evidence of an impending Republican wave.