Voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary election was the lowest ever recorded in Florida. Statewide, only 15-percent of voters cast ballots. Voter turnout in primary elections is never very high. If one-third of people head to the polls to choose their party’s candidates in the general election, political watchers are happy. But a statewide 15-percent turnout has disappointed political scientists. Florida Gulf Coast University public affairs professor Peter Bergerson blames an election held just after Labor Day, rainy weather in parts of Florida and a two-decade long decline in political party activity:
“One of the primary ingredients in winning a race is having an effective organization. So if you remove the major influence of political parties during primary elections, you’ve removed one of the motivating factors or forces that bring people to the polls.”
Bergerson also says college football may be to blame. The state’s three big universities all played their first games this past weekend, diverting attention from the election.
Political observers says Tuesday’s ultra-low turnout at the polls was disappointing and not surprising. Statewide, just 15-percent of voters cast ballots. In Southwest Florida it wasn’t much better: Lee, Collier and Hendry Counties all reported a 17-percent turnout. 20-percent of Glades County voters turned out and just 15-percent in Charlotte. University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus says the state didn’t do a good enough job educating the public that everyone can participate in the primary.
“Even if you’re not a Democrat or Republican, you can still vote in the non-partisan judicial races and school board races. And we had record highs in the number of competitive judges and school board races and yet one-fifth of our population who’s independent didn’t realize they could vote in those races. And I think that dampened turnout a lot too.”
MacManus also blamed the low turnout on poor weather in South Florida and the election falling one day after Labor Day. She expects turnout to be much higher in November for the general election because of the governor and senate races.
Thursday, 07 September 2006 01:00
Voter TurnoutWritten by WGCU Newsroom