Washoe County primary turnout forecast 22-25 percent
June 4, 2010
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Washoe County election officials predict low voter turnout of between 22 percent and 25 percent for Tuesday’s primary with significantly more Republicans voting than Democrats in the county that increasingly decides statewide elections.
That would be slightly better than the 20 percent turnout at the 2008 primary, but down from the two before that – 31 percent in 2006 and 28 percent in 2004, said Dan Burk, the county’s registrar of voters.
Voter registration is virtually even among Democrats (84,828) and Republicans (84,575) among the 214,451 total voters in Washoe County, where the general election turnout in 2008 was a record 76 percent.
But of the more than 23,000 people who had voted early in the county by Friday afternoon, 54 percent were Republican and 38 percent Democrat.
Burk predicted that about 60 percent of the Nevadans who end up voting in the primary would have done so by the close of early voting Friday evening – nearly twice as many as in 2008.
“The bottom line is our citizens like early voting,” county spokeswoman Kathy Carter.
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Burk said the GOP interest is driven by former U.S. Judge Brian Sandoval’s primary challenge against Gov. Jim Gibbons and the tight battle for the nomination to face Democratic Sen. Harry Reid between Sharron Angle, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, Burk said.
But he said he would have expected a significantly larger turnout than the August 2008 primary, when the lackluster interest was blamed partly on the fact the two parties had held their presidential caucuses months earlier.
And while primaries always have significantly smaller turnouts than general elections, Burk said he can’t explain the lukewarm warm interest currently given the turnout of more than 76 percent in November 2008.
“I wish I did know why,” Burk told reporters during a briefing on Friday.
“When you have 12 candidates running for the U.S. Senate and want to run against the sitting Senate majority leader, that is exciting,” he said.
“It’s not like you don’t have people with different views in their campaigns. And you have an incumbent governor being challenged by a former federal judge. That is also a very interest contest. So I don’t know. There’s so much interesting stuff here, especially for the Republicans,” Burk said.
He theorized that some voters may be preoccupied with other concerns stemming from the sour economy.
“I think a lot of people have an awful lot on their minds. It’s a tough period,” he said.