The Weekly Wonk: Turnout in the August 23rd Primary

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. This way I can have more time to gather the statistics and resources that I want to devote to these articles. This week I finish my look back at the August 23rd Congressional and State Senate Primary with a breakdown of overall turnout.

Primary elections are routinely low turnout elections. Primaries that we consider having higher turnouts top out at 35 to 40%, which would be considered one of the worst turnouts for a general election. Most primaries settle in the 15-25% turnout range. With 16.64% turnout the best way to look at the August 23rd primary is it was an average primary election.

There were 302441 active registered voters for the August 23rd primary. 99,421(33%) voters were ineligible. Of the eligible voters (Democrats & GOP county wide and Conservatives in the #SD48) 33,778 voters participated in the election while 169,242 stayed home. This resulted in 16.64% turnout. Of those who turned out, 76% voted on Election Day, 13% voted Early, 10% voted by absentee, and 1% voted by Affidavit ballot. Sixty percent of the turnout were Democrats, 39% of the turnout GOP, and 1 % of the turnout Conservative voters. Adjusting for eligible voters the Democrats had highest turnout with 17.59%, the GOP 2nd with 15.89%, and conservatives had just 6.86% turnout.

In terms of raw voters this was one of the busiest primaries for the major parties. Since 2009 it is actually quite rare to have county wide primaries for both parties, let alone twice in a summer. The over 30k participants is the most for any primary % turnout was higher than the June primary and last year’s city primary. It is beaten in raw numbers only by the 2020 combined Presidential and local primaries with 38k voters and the massive 2016 Presidential which had nearly 75k voters.

Despite the raw turnout, this was really an average primary in rms of turnout percentages for both parties. For Democrats, the 17.59% turn out beats the June primary and last year’s city primary, but not it is definitely lower than most Democratic primaries. Of the sixteen primaries since 2009, the 2022 August primary is ranked seventh landing squarely in the middle of the pack. The GOP does not have primaries as often, this is only the ninth since 2009. Like the Democrats, the 15.89% turnout beats the last two primaries for the GOP. However, of the nine primaries it ranks fifth, again in the middle of the pack.

Regionally this primary broke down in the usual way. The overall 16.68% turnout was sixth out of seventeen of all primaries since 2009. The suburbs once again had a higher turnout than the city. Suburban voters turned out at 16.95%. City voters’ turnout at 15.81%. This is the normal pattern when the full county is activated for the primary. When the City is the focus of the primary with just small parts of the suburbs in local years then we see lower suburban turnout. When the full county is activated, like nearly ever general election, suburban voters’ turnout for higher rates.

That does it for this edition of the #weeklyWonk. Next week I will do a 5-week run finishing races on the ballots this year. I will start out with both Senate Seats #48 & #50 as well as the towns of Manlius, Onondaga, and Pompey. Check back each week.

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