Quick Update: Looks like turnout was a bit higher than the estimates below, because a significant share of Democratic primary voters chose not to cast a ballot in the AG race. Preliminary estimates from the Secretary of State’s office are 107,327 votes cast in the Democratic primary and 19,719 in the Republican one, for 127,046 combined.
That could push statewide turnout closer to 18%. More to come.
Second Update: Secretary of State’s office not 100% sure those early numbers are right. Seems high for more than 12,000 Democratic voters to opt out of choosing a candidate in the AG’s race. For what it’s worth, I agree. More to come.
Final Update: Nope, Board of Elections says those figures were correct – there was a lot of “undervoting” in the Democratic attorney general’s race, meaning voters picked up a ballot but did not choose a candidate in that contest. My full report on turnout is up on the main site.
Original Post: Only about 16% of Rhode Island’s registered voters showed up at the polls for Tuesday’s primary, despite high-profile races for attorney general and Congress, according to my back-of-the-envelope calculations. If accurate, that would be the lowest off-year turnout in 12 years.
There were 94,851 votes cast statewide in the Democratic primary for attorney general, and another 18,603 cast in the Republican primary for governor, for a combined total of 113,454 in the two major party primaries. That’s out of about 710,000 registered voters who were eligible to participate in the election, according to figures the Projo published earlier this week.
Caveats: some voters could have failed to cast ballots in those two races, although those appeared to be the most popular of the various contests; figures can change as final counts are completed; and I don’t know whether the Projo’s 710,000 figure for the number of potential voters includes individuals who were not eligible because they registered after the Aug. 14 deadline for the primary.
If turnout was roughly 113,500, it would be right around the number predicted by Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming, who predicted 120,000 late last week but reduced his forecast slightly to 115,000 yesterday. Color me impressed.
That said, it’s rather sad that only 16% of registered voters cast ballots in the election, even if it was expected. That would be the lowest turnout in a non-presidential year since 1998, when just under 14% showed up. (In 2006, the year of Chaffee v. Laffey, 23.4% of voters turned out, while in 2002, when York and Whitehouse battled for the gubernatorial nod, 22.5% came out.)
Interestingly, the 1st Congressional District race that got so much attention did not attract that many more voters than the quieter 2nd District race. Preliminary figures show 56,724 votes were cast in the 1st District contest, won by David Cicilline, while 43,638 were cast in the 2nd District, where U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin was nominated for another term.
In Providence, 23,801 votes were cast in the Democratic primary for mayor won by Angel Taveras, who faces only token opposition in November.
By my math, that would put turnout in the city’s Democratic primary at a fairly robust 27%, since about 89,000 Democratic and unaffiliated voters were eligible to cast a ballot in that contest. That would be nearly as strong a turnout as in 2002, when 28% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the first Democratic primary won by David Cicilline.
Secretary of State Ralph Mollis’ aides are still tabulating an official estimate of last night’s turnout. I’ll update this post once I hear from them.