Absentee vote up over 100 percent, early vote down in primary election, held today
By Josh Warburton
In eager anticipation of the results of today’s primary election here in St. George, I went back and looked at my earlier statistical analysis and did some comparisons between that data and the information we have received so far for this year. As of yesterday, 1,729 absentee (mail-in) ballots had been received and counted, and an additional 276 early votes have been counted. This is a fairly large increase from the voter participation in the 2011 primary, when we saw just 705 absentee and 421 early votes cast. Specifically, there is a significant increase in the number of absentee ballots cast — well over double so far — and they have not all been counted yet, as absentee voters have until today to have their ballots postmarked. It also shows a drop of about 150 votes in the early voting; although I wasn’t able to substantiate it, it’s a fair guess that a good number of those 150 may have opted to mail their votes in this time or possibly vote today.
For some, this near-100 percent increase in combined absentee and early votes might point to a significantly higher voter turnout this go-round … and making it more convenient does increase voter turnout overall, so that may partially be the reason, but other factors are also at work. Last year, there was a massive Republican effort in Washington County (reportedly to the tune of $100,000) to register Republican voters to vote absentee. It’s true that this is a non-partisan election, and for good reason — it keeps national, hard-line politics out of our city government, where zoning and street names are areas of jurisdiction.
This effort seems to have been a major influence in the volume being received, and the breakdown of party affiliation seems to back that up. Exactly 200 absentee votes were cast by registered Democrats, 221 Unaffiliated, leaving the rest, 1,307, coming from registered Republicans. This breaks down to percentages of 11.5 percent Democrats, 12.8 percent Unaffiliated, and a whopping 75.5 percent Republicans. It will be very interesting to see if this sizable number of voters ends up deciding the election. Since there is no (R) or (D) next to candidates’ names, much of the partisanism is reduced.
The early voters this year, while only about one-sixth as many as the absentees, skew just a bit differently. With 276 votes counted, Democrats logged 42 votes, 54 were Unaffiliated, and 177 were Republicans. There were also two Constitutionalists and one Independent. So, as a percentage, the Dems were 15 percent and Unaffiliated were 19.5 percent, putting the Republican vote at 64 percent … that’s much more in line with the numbers of registered voters for St. George.
If it turns out that Republicans maintain a similar or better percentage of votes for the regular vote today (rather than having moved votes to absentee) they will have effectively increased the total number of Republicans and voters as a whole. It is still hard to say if this will sway the election, since candidates don’t have to declare party affiliation and voters in these non-partisan elections have not historically stuck to voting strictly party affiliation.
Overall, I would predict a bit higher voter turnout than we saw in the primary in 2011, when we had just 4,459 votes cast, only 12% of registered voters. Traditionally, it is thought that higher voter turnout helps non-incumbents, but since there are no incumbents and a dozen candidates to choose from, today’s results are still a bit of a crapshoot. Anyone care to make a prediction?