Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Primary turnout lowest in a decade

May 21. 2014 11:30PM

By - mguydish@civitasmedia.com

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Primary updates

For final primary results on the 17th Congressional District and unopposed races, see Page 14A.

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Voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election hit a new record low, for the second year in a row.

Total turnout for both parties was a scant 18 percent, according to unofficial results, sinking even beneath the 19.8 percent turnout in the 2013 primary, dubbed by many veteran watchers to be a record at the time.

It was even worse for Republicans.

With few candidates facing any competition and the governor’s slot locked up by incumbent Tom Corbett before the polls opened, a scant 15.7 percent of registered Republicans voted.

Democrats, who at least had a slate of four for governor, boosted the overall turnout with 22.6 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

The 18 percent turnout is less than half the high point of the last 12 years, 2008, when strong national interest in a presidential campaign that featured the first black and first woman candidate in a major party drove interest up nationwide. Luzerne County saw a turnout of 51.6 percent. The 2012 primary, in comparison, had only a 22.3 percent turnout, lower by at least 10 percentage points than the primaries in the three intervening years.

A look at turnout data by municipality shows a wide range of voter interest across the county. The poorest turnouts were in West Hazleton, 11.7 percent, and neighboring Hazleton, 12 percent.

The highest turnout was a relatively impressive 43.5 percent in Jeddo, but the borough is so small — 62 registered voters — that small numbers make big percentage shifts. The second biggest turnout was 30.2 percent in West Wyoming, a borough with 1,910 registered voters, according to the Luzerne County Election Bureau.

While there are pockets of light and heavier turnout throughout the county, a swath of municipalities generally in the northwest of the county showed some of the higher turnout, 20 to 30 percent: The townships of Ross, Lake, Union, Hunlock, Lehman, Plymouth and Dallas along with Harveys Lake and Dallas boroughs.

All told, 34 municipalities mustered 20 percent or more in turnout, but 42 fell below that already low benchmark.

The lack of competition for many positions has become the norm locally. Even in the crowded 2013 primary, with a big slate of school board races, there were 53 races lacking a full Democratic slate, 70 lacking a full Republican slate and 11 with no candidates at all.

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