If the first 25 statewide primaries (for U.S. Senate and/or state governor) are any guide, the nation is likely to witness the lowest midterm primary turnout in history. It is also likely to witness the greatest number of states setting records for low voter turnout.
--National turnout for the 25 states which held statewide primaries for both major parties reported a decline of 3.5 percentage points or 18 percent from the turnout in 2010. The national percentage of eligible citizens who voted in these primaries was 14.8 percent, down from 18.3 percent in 2010. Only 18,201,718 out of 122,751,000 age-eligible citizens voted for governor and/or U.S. Senator in these primaries.
--Turnout in fifteen of the twenty-five states which held statewide primaries reached historic lows. Only three of those 25 states had higher turnout in 2014 than in 2010.
--Republican turnout at 8.2 percent dropped 1.4 percentage points or 15 percent from its 2010 level of 9.6 percent of the age-eligible citizens. But GOP turnout was only slightly off its 13 midterm election average of 8.9 percent.
These were among the highlights of a report on official and certified final turnout figures for all the contested statewide primary elections prior to July by the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE). The aggregate national turnout figures in this report are based on the average turnout of all the states which held primaries in any given midterm election. (Some of the states that held primaries in 2014 did not do so in any given previous election. Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota did not do so in 2010. In the detailed charts section of this report, there are charts providing comparisons between states that held primaries in every prior midterm election. Those charts don’t change the essential conclusions based on averages in this report.)
Among other findings:
--Overall turnout, the turnout in both Democratic and Republican primaries combined was 17.1 percentage points or 54 percent lower that the most recent high of 31.9 percent of age-eligible citizens voting in 1966.
--Democratic turnout was 14.5 percentage points or 70 percent lower than their most recent high of 20.9 percent of eligibles voting in 1970.
--Republican turnout was down five percentage points or 38 percent from its high water mark of 13.2 percent of eligibles voting in 1966.
--There were only three states – West Virginia, Nebraska and North Carolina – of the 22 which held statewide primaries in both parties and had comparable elections that had higher turnout in 2014 than in 2010. Democratic turnout as compared to 2010 was higher four states. Republican turnout was higher in six of the 22 states.
--Both overall turnout and Democratic turnout reached record lows in 15 of the 25 states that had statewide primaries. The GOP recorded record lows in three states – Maine, Nevada and Pennsylvania – but also recorded record high turnout in four states – Arkansas, Mississippi (in the senatorial runoff), Montana and Oklahoma.