The Weekly Wonk: June Primary Overall Turnout

Welcome to the #weeklywonk.  This is my weekly blog about statistics, registration data, and election law on my website,  This is a rebrand of my #wonkywednesday and #sundaythoughts columns I have been writing since 2020.  In merging these two side projects together I am hoping to be a little more regular in my production.  I have also not tied myself to a particular day to release these columns, hoping to release them weekly on the weekend, so I can have more time to gather the statistics and resources that I want to devote to these articles.  This week I will finish my look back at the June 2022 primary looking at overall turnout.

Primaries by their very nature are low turnout events, and the June 2022 primary was no different.  On the ballot in Onondaga County there was a Democratic and republican primary for Governor and Democratic primary for Lt. Governor.  Other areas of the state had Assembly and local office primaries, but we did not in Onondaga County.  We had 196,903 voters eligible to vote in the June Primary.  28,743 voters showed up to the polls for a turnout percentage of 14.60%.  As we explored in the last three updates, 81% voted on Election Day, 9% voted Early & Absentee, and an additional 1% voted via Affidavit Ballot.  In the overall populace of the Primary Democrats made up 55% of the raw vote total and GOP made up 45%.  The turnout percentages though were virtually tied with the GOP getting 14.82% turnout and Democrats getting 14.44%.

It is actually rare that a primary election has both GOP and Democratic choices on the ballot at the same time.  Since 2009 we have had 16 different primary elections, including last June.  Only 5 of those primaries were bi-partisan primaries with both major parties having choices.  Only 2 primaries (2012 Presidential & Federal) were primary elections with only GOP choices.  9 primaries have occurred with only Democratic choices and no GOP choices.  Only one year where there no primary election, that was 2011.  It should be noted in August we will once again have both GOP and Democratic choices for Congress.  This will make the third primary in a row where there is competition on both sides and possibly a harbinger of more primaries in the future.

Turnout rates for primary fluctuate based on the number of races on the ballot in non-presidential years.  The 2020 Presidential primary stands out as the big daddy of all recent primaries.  Turnout soared in those primaries because New York was uniquely situated as the do or die states for Trump and Clinton as wins in New York would all but cement their general election nominations.  It was also alone in the primary calendar allowing all Presidential campaigns to focus solely on the state.  The 2020 combined Presidential primary for Democrats is next.  This is a unique primary where the Presidential and congressional and local races were all combined into one primary.  The various competitive offices drove turnout.  Turnout in non-presidential primaries tend to be driven by number of candidates on the ballot.  Another example of that is in 2018 the later local primary with Governor and local offices had higher turnout that the 2018 Federal primaries with only Congress on the ballot.  Of the 5 primaries with both Democrats and GOP on the ballot the GOP had higher turnout in 2 primaries (2010 & 2022 June) and Democrats had higher in 3 primaries (2009,2016 Pres,2021).  Most of the time the differences are negligible in the ratio of turnout, though that is notably different than General Elections where Democrats usually trail in turnout rates.

Another interesting difference in primaries as opposed to general elections is the regional turnout rates.  In General elections the City of Syracuse tends to trail both the suburbs and overall turnout.  In Primary elections that is not always the case.  The City of Syracuse is a Democratically held city and in recent years the primary tends to be the election for the city offices.  This has led the city to participate at a higher rate in their primaries.  We have had 5 City only primaries of the 16 primaries since 2009 (2009, 2013, 2015, 2017, & 2019).  Syracuse has led the turnout in in 8 different years (2010, 2012 Pres, 2012 Fed, 2014 Local, 2016 Fed, 2018 Fed, 2018 Local, 2021 Local).  The three years where the primaries acted more like the general where Presidential Primaries in 2016 & 2020 and this last June 2022 primary.  In all three of these primaries, we had county wide competitive primaries and turnout among suburban voters increased.  City voters are used to primaries and usually have more races to choose from and that in my opinion is why on average they are more likely to show up for a primary than suburbanites. 

This wraps up my four-week look back at the June Primary.  In September after the certification of the August Primary I will do a similar breakdown of that election. It will be interesting to look at the turnout difference between June and August.  For years New York had bifurcated primaries with Federal primaries in June and local ones in September.  This was because New York was under a court order to move their local primary earlier or have two different primaries to allow the federal primary to comply with the MOVE act.  Democrats in the Assembly wanted a single June primary, and the GOP in the Senate wanted an August Primary.  The Court eventually moved federal elections to June and New York had two primaries until Democrats took over the State Legislature in 2019.  It should be noted that we have had only two normal political calendars 2019 & 2021.  Covid combined the Presidential primary in June of 2020 and Redistricting once again split the primaries in June and August of 2022. This real-life experiment will give us some insight on that past debate.

Next week I will once again return to looking at some of the races on the ballot for the General election resuming my look at the Assembly races with the 128th Assembly District.  I plan to look at each race on the General election ballot leading up to November.  Remember to subscribe to to get all election news and content updates.

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