Idaho primary draws about 30% turnout

·2 min read

May 22—Unofficial voter turnout figures indicate that about half of all registered Republicans in Idaho cast ballots in Tuesday's primary election.

On a percentage basis, that was double the turnout among Democratic voters.

Final numbers won't be available until county canvassing boards certify the election results this week.

However, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said preliminary estimates show that about 265,000 Republican ballots were cast during the primary, compared to about 33,000 Democratic ballots.

Unofficial results in the gubernatorial primary suggest the Republican figure could be closer to 281,000.

Based on the May voter registration rolls, that would put turnout among Republicans at 48% to 51%, compared to 25% for Democrats.

When minor party ballots are added to the mix, Houck said, total voter turnout is expected to be right around 30%. That's in line with the 27.5% average turnout rate in the past 11 primaries, dating back to 2000.

Total voter turnout in a primary election in Idaho hasn't exceeded 40% since 1980.

The low participation rate means a small fraction of registered voters — and even smaller percentage of the voting-age population — typically determines who will represent Idaho residents as a whole, both in the Legislature and in the statewide and federal offices.

On Tuesday, for example, no single candidate for statewide office received more than 148,213 votes, except for State Controller Brandon Woolf and State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth, who were both unopposed.

That means less than 15% of registered voters decided which Republican candidates will advance to the Nov. 8 general election — and, in all likelihood, who the ultimate winner will be, given the GOP's long-standing dominance at the polls.

In north central Idaho, unofficial turnout figures ranged from 45.5% in Idaho County to 26.1% in Nez Perce County. Latah County had about a 28.8% turnout, compared to 35.3% for Lewis County and 38.8% for Clearwater County.

Houck noted that about 3,400 voters switched their registration from Democratic to Republican in the weeks leading up to the primary. Another 6,400 or so unaffiliated voters also registered as Republicans prior to Election Day.

Unofficial numbers indicate that about 20,000 more unaffiliated voters registered as Republicans at the polls on Tuesday, he said.

Even with the average participation rate, it's likely that a record number of ballots were cast in this year's primary. The previous high was 269,467 in 2018, according to online records on the Secretary of State's website that date back to 1980.

The website also has an extensive library of educational videos that explain every aspect of Idaho's voting procedures, including how to register to vote, how ballots are tabulated and how election results are certified.

The videos can be found at voteidaho.gov/voter-education.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.