Primary election turnout is meager

Published 9:38 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

Only 9 percent of eligible voters participated in Minnesota’s primary.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie reported the figure Wednesday. He had predicted in the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary that it was likely to draw fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters.

In Freeborn County, turnout was at 16 percent of eligible voters.

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There are 17,718 registered voters in the county, and there were 2,814 ballots cast.

Interestingly, 1,331 voted with the DFL ballot, 1,316 the GOP ballot, and 74 the Independence Party ballot. Ninety-three voted only in nonpartisan races, such as Albert Lea mayor.

It was only the second time that Minnesota held its primary election in August, since moving it up from September to give military and overseas voters more time to vote in the general election. Some state lawmakers have advocated moving it even earlier to June, arguing that many Minnesotans are on vacation in August and not tuned in to politics.

In August 2010, Freeborn County had high turnout, 31 percent, perhaps because of the sheriff’s race. When the primary was in September in 2008, turnout was 22 percent.

Despite the low figure, it’s not the smallest turnout ever for a Minnesota primary. In 2004, fewer than 8 percent of eligible voters participated in that year’s primary.