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The Updated Turnout Patterns

This past Tuesday’s primary elections marked the virtual halfway point in states choosing their nominees for the November campaigns, and a clear pattern is developing

Those who have been predicting a Republican “red wave” for the Autumn certainly gain credibility in what we have seen from most of the 24 states that have so far held their primary elections.

Comparing this year’s turnout statistics with those that occurred in the last midterm election, 2018, reveal the same type of current election enthusiasm for Republicans that we saw for Democrats four years ago. As we remember, 2018 proved to be a wave Democratic year, an election in which the party gained 41 seats in the House of Representatives and converted the majority.

Though the “blue wave” existed in 2018, it did not help the Democrats in the Senate - in fact, the party lost two seats that year - because the map heavily favored Republicans. Then, Democrats had to defend 26 seats and the GOP only nine. Interestingly, the tables turn this year, as Republicans must defend 21 Senate seats as compared to the Democrats being on defense in only 14 states.

From the 24 early voting states in 2022, we can make some definitive calculations from the voting patterns in 17 of the domains. In six states, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia, we don’t see comparable statewide elections either in 2018 or this year. By that we mean there were not competitive primaries that would drive voters to the polls, either meaning no statewide elections, such as in Kentucky and North Carolina, for example, or that candidates in the key races, Governor and Senator, were unopposed.

The California counting process consumes such a long time - the state allows itself a cycle of 33 days to count the ballots - that the Secretary of State reports 1,364,865 ballots still remain to be counted cumulatively in the 58 counties from the June 7th vote.  This is because the state allows ballots to be received seven days after the election and all mail ballots, a category in which greater than 85% of all primary votes fall, are individually signature verified. Thus, the aforementioned seven states are not included in the primary turnout comparison matrix between midterm election years 2018 and 2022.

From the 17 states that are included in this sample, we see 14 where the 2022 Republican turnout is higher than in 2018. For Democrats, this commensurate number is only five. Taking the aggregate figure for both parties in the 17 states, we see the number of people voting in Republican primaries rise 37.6% from 2018, while the Democratic figure drops by just over a quarter, -25.4%.

In terms of raw numbers, a total of 2,461,932 more people voted in Republican primaries through these 17 tested states in 2022 than 2018, while the participation factor in Democratic primaries is down 917,738 people.

Often, but not always, primary turnout figures are precursors to what occurs in the associated general election. In this year, we see two states in particular where the primary turnout pattern is suggesting the pair are places to watch for this year’s general election.

In both Pennsylvania and Georgia, turnout patterns set records, as both parties saw substantially increased participation factors. In the Keystone State, the 2022 Pennsylvania Republican turnout figure is up 92% over what was recorded in 2018, while Democrats increased 58% from what was already a high figure for them in the last midterm year. Turning to Georgia, the turnout numbers are also up for both parties, 29% for Democrats and a whopping 110% for Republicans.

Perhaps most astonishingly, the 2022 Republican turnout number in both Pennsylvania and Georgia actually exceeds the number posted for the 2020 presidential primary, a statistic almost never seen.

In the first half of this election year, the primary turnout figures are suggesting a Republican wave in most of the places. In the 17 states, with New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon being the exceptions, more people have voted in Republican primaries than participated in Democratic nomination elections. It is already clear that when all of the ballots are finally counted California will also see more Democrats vote than Republicans.

Therefore, these numbers largely point to greater enthusiasm among Republicans during the first half of the primary season, which so far argues for a strong upcoming GOP election year.


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