Despite a 25 percent increase in the number of registered voters from April 2014 to now, the District appears to have had less turnout both in absolute and percentage terms in this year’s June primary, which led to big Council changes.
With all 143 precincts counted but the results still uncertified, the D.C. Board of Elections tabulates that 98,667 voters cast their ballots in some form this year. But out of 461,575 registered voters, that amounts to just over one out of five. In the April 2014 primary, D.C. had 369,037 registered voters, 27 percent of whom—or 99,394—then voted.
In all, turnout for the June 14 primary seems to have dropped by more than five percentage points as compared with that for the primary held two years prior: Merely 21.38 percent of registered voters cast ballots, per DCBOE’s statistics.
There could be a host of reasons for that apparent drop, including the fact that 2014 was a mayoral primary year—a competitive one mired in controversy, with now-Mayor Muriel Bowser besting then-Mayor and soon-to-be Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray. This year, D.C.’s Democratic voters may have also felt less inclined to turn out knowing that Hillary Clinton had already officially clinched her party’s nomination for president over Bernie Sanders last week.
Asked to comment on the turnout in the June primary, a DCBOE spokesperson said in a statement that residents who are eligible voters “have many opportunities to cast their ballot,” including via absentee, early, and day-of voting. “We always want every eligible voter to come out and take advantage of the voting opportunities,” the spokesperson said.
Would greater turnout have resulted in different D.C. Council victors than those who emerged last night? Possibly, but it wouldn’t have been pervasive: The At-Large contest was the closet race, with challenger Robert White beating sitting Councilmember Vincent Orange 39.64 to 37.35 percent, according to DCBOE’s uncertified counts. Ward 4 incumbent Brandon Todd and Ward 8 insurgent Trayon White won their elections by single-digit—though significant—margins.
That wasn’t the case for the Ward 7 race, in which Gray’s 60 percent easily bested Councilmember Yvette Alexander‘s 33 percent, per the latest data. “It’s really very disappointing in a presidential primary that the voter turnout was so low,” Alexander said during her election-party concession speech. “But the residents of Ward 7 have spoken, no matter how many residents have voted. And I respect that.”
See where the candidates got the bulk of their support across the District in voting-data maps that City Paper created.