Low Voter Turnout in Primaries Has Dems Especially Worried

Image: Low Voter Turnout in Primaries Has Dems Especially Worried (Eric Schultz/al.com/Landov)

Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 08:38 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Sharp declines in voter turnout for primaries in 25 states have both parties worried, but the situation is dire for Democrats, who are pouring millions into building ground operations ahead of the November election, The Hill reports.

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate released a report last week showing turnout in the 25 states that have already held statewide primaries dropped 3.5 percent from 2010 to 14.8 percent of the voting-age population. 

Turnout in 15 of those states hit record lows.

"In terms of our turnout operation this fall, an aggressive early voting push and an aggressive absentee push will be key parts of our strategy. As will voter-to-voter contact, knocking on doors, face to face,"Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The Hill.

The DSCC has pledged a whopping $60 million to build ground operations in 10 of its most competitive states, The Hill reported.

Yet George Mason University political science professor Michael McDonald pointed out turnout actually went up in states with contentious contests, like North Carolina and Nebraska for Republicans, and New Mexico for Democrats.

"Where we do see higher participation in primaries is where we see competitive elections,"he told The Hill, adding voters see "a real reason, a real choice between the candidates offered there."

Mitch Stewart, President Barack Obama’s former battleground states director, agreed voters need something to be excited about to go out and vote.

"It’s a symptom of our politics today. It’s hard to look at Congress and be super jazzed about voting," he told The Hill.

And that's where the GOP has a distinct advantage, The Hill reported, citing a Pew poll finding that 45 percent of Republican voters were more hyped about voting this year than in years past; only 37 percent of Democratic voters said the same.

"We haven’t really seen Democrats have a reason to be interested in the election yet, because we’re not close to the fall election and their primaries haven’t been contested,"McDonald said.

If Democrats are on the ropes, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is feeling energized, The Hill reports.

NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring points to the committee’s efforts driving Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran to a win in his primary runoff – 45 NRSC staffers knocked on more than 65,000 doors, he noted.

"We invested approximately $200,000 in digital targeting and turnout," he told The Hill. "These investments helped to successfully grow the electorate, and when all was said and done, Senator Cochran picked up well over 10,000 additional Republican votes."

Curtis Gans, the Center report's author, told The Hill both parties have their work cut out for them.

"An organization is just as good as how fertile the ground is that they’re tilling," he said.

"These figures essentially say that neither party has particularly fertile ground to till."

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