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San Diego Election Turnout: The Postscript and the Preview

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Now that all the votes have been tallied, let us take a look and see how our Competitive Edge predictions for the June
primary election played out. When we posted the final turnout projection on June 1 for San Diego County, I called it at 51%. Lo and behold, the turnout was in fact 51% for the County.

JuneTurnoutIt is important to note this distinction: turnout for the presidential nomination and the contest for U.S. Senate drew fewer voters. In each of those contests, 45% of the county’s registered voters participated. This means plenty of ballots were left blank in these races. What gives? Faced with unappetizing choices, many Republicans skipped those races but cast their votes for other offices and ballot measures.

In the City of San Diego, I predicted 46% of the registered voters would turn out, and 48% actually voted in the San Diego Mayor’s race. I’ll call myself two for two so far this year. It is also important to note the drop-off between the mayor’s contest and the city attorney’s race in which only 42.6% of the voters cast a vote. This 5.2% nominal drop-off means 11.2% of the people who voted for mayor didn’t bother to vote for city attorney. In the past, we have more drop-off. With five candidates campaigning hard to replace Jan Goldsmith, that level of competition produced less of a drop-off.

It was a crazy primary in many ways. The competitive Democratic presidential primary juxtaposed with a suddenly lackluster Republican presidential primary created a substantial partisan differential in favor of Democrats down ballot. Had both parties been engaged in tough nomination fights to the end, Republican turnout very likely would have exceeded the performance on the Democrat side, turnout would have been far more robust and more favorable to GOP candidates. As we saw, that was not the case.

Given the June’s unpredictability, it is difficult to forecast November’s turnout. Most of the time, primary turnouts give us a reasonable preview as to what November turnout will be. We’ve all now figured out that this election does not fall into the “most of the time” category.  Based on what we’re seeing at Competitive Edge, it is realistic to think turnout could be as low as 60% or as high as 80%. How’s that for pinning things down? Check back in with The Edge blog in mid-October for another round of predictions.  We’ll get it right; it’s just going to take us awhile.

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