Overall PA Voter Turnout Between 14-17%

Empty voting boothTip O’Neill once famously said that “all politics is local,” but that mantra didn’t spur much participation in Pa. in Tuesday’s municipal primaries.

The primary yesterday determined the candidates for offices such as school boards, sheriff, and local courts that can most directly affect the lives of the PA’s citizens, turnout across the state was unimpressive.

The final number won’t be available until counties certify their results and send them to the department of state, but we’re talking turnout in the teens.

According to the PA Department of State, 511,152 Democrats voted in yesterday’s race for Pa. Superior Court. According to Labels & Lists, there were 3,467,761 Democrats registered. That’s a participation percentage on the D side of 14.7%.

384,370 of 2,747,093 registered Republicans voted, an identical turnout rate of 14%.

Granted, it’s likely a few points higher because not every voter cast a ballot in the Superior contest (the GOP candidate was unopposed). But even if the historical average of 20% of voters left their ballots blank in the race, it means just 17% in that party voted across the state.

That also does not include the roughly 880,000 voters registered in 3rd parties or not affiliated.

While a few areas reported brisk participation, even municipalities with contested races saw few voters according to anecdotal reports.

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia voters “yawn at primary elections.” According to City Commissioners Co-Chair Al Schmidt, “turnout was fairly low” through the state’s most populous city.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted in their election report that despite contests for the mayoral race, as well as judicial and school board contests, “turnout was light” in the region and the rest of the state.

Yet it wasn’t just the cities that experienced a paucity of voters. The Harrisburg Patriot-News stated that despite great weather voters didn’t show up to vote in the middle of the state either. Perry County elections director Bonnie Delancey asserted that “Nobody is showing up.”

2 Responses

  1. Keegan-
    You need a better source than “Labels and Lists” for voter registration data.

    The PA Dept of State website publishes an excel file every week with the registration counts, by party and county (even weekly registrations and party changes).

    The Apr 30th file had the following counts:
    Dems: 4,113,108 of which
    3,881,538 are flagged as “Active” and
    231,570 are flagged as “In-Active”
    (today’s sheet has 3,880,98 vs 231,589)

    So, Labels and Lists… sucks.

    Anyway, if you take away “Active” Dems who registered before 2008, but never voted in 2008 or since, the number of Active Dems drops about 3,655,000. I personally think this number is more representative of Active, since the voters that were registered, but missed the past 10 elections, should really be dropped or moved to InActive.

    Also, if Lists and Labels failed to tell you/distinguish that actual Dem registration was about 4.1 million, they were really off with 3.467 million. But if they were giving you “official Active”, they should have given you about 3.88 million. So, their Dem number was off by 400,000….. and they suck.

    As for the 511,152 Dems that voted for Superior court, that is 14% (compared to the 14.7% using Lists/Labels that you rounded down to 14%). However, the number of Dems that showed up at the polls is a bit higher, because there is some under-vote, where voters don’t bother voting for that particular race.

    For example, in Philadelphia, there were 62,414 Dem votes for the Controller race, but only 58,755 for the Superior court race. (About a 6% drop-off, on top of whatever drop-off the Controller race had). You will find a similar effect in Pittsburgh in Mayor’s race vs Superior court.

    So, I’d put statewide Dem turnout a little over 15% to adjust for some undervote, and my own tweaking of the Active count.

  2. “Granted, it’s likely a few points higher because not every voter cast a ballot in the Superior contest (the GOP candidate was unopposed). ”

    Plus the primary contests for Philadelphia Controller and Pittsburgh Mayor might as well be considered the equivalent of a general election for Democrats. There’s no incentive for big city Republicans to turn out.

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