Low voter turnout expected in Pennsylvania primary
Primaries and local races tend to have lower turnout than presidential elections
April 23, 2012, 8:17 pm · Updated April 25, 2012, 4:38 am·
Leaders of many political groups on campus, in the city and across the state expect low voter turnout in today’s Pennsylvania primary, especially among young people.
Partly at fault is the predetermined nature of the presidential race. With former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum out of the Republican race, there is little doubt that the general election will be fought between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
College sophomore and Penn Democrats President Andrew Brown said Penn Dems has “been exhaustively registering voters” at a rate of 50 to 100 per week.
However, he doesn’t think the primary will make any difference.
Anthony Christina, chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans, said the presidential primary is “obviously less competitive.”
“It’s something that is expected to see a drop in turnout,” he said. “It’s been my experience that Democrats aren’t as charged up for Obama, [and] it’s pretty much assured that Mitt Romney will win Pennsylvania.”
About 2,500 people voted at on-campus polling locations during the 2008 presidential primary, a figure that few expect will be matched today.
Although voter turnout may not be as high as that of the 2008 primary, “just the sheer fact that it’s a presidential year means that you’re going to see more people come out” than you would during off-year elections, Christina said.
But one person who said he is “confident about voter turnout this year” is College freshman and College Republicans Political Director Anthony Cruz.
“There’s going to be good voter turnout on both sides,” Cruz said, adding that voters might come out to express their disapproval of the other side. “There have been many criticisms of President Obama.”
The overall lack of interest in the presidential primaries is “unfortunate for some local races,” Chairman of the Philadelphia Federation of Young Republicans Steven Boc said. “The general younger person has no interest whatsoever [in local races]. A lot of them are going to stay at home and not vote.”
Brown echoed those sentiments. “On the local level, there are some hotly contested races that could be interesting,” he said. But students are “not very invested in the race. They don’t care about local government, even though it does have an impact.”
Two significant statewide races on today’s ballot are the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Bob Casey for his seat in the fall. The attorney general position is seen as a stepping stone to higher office in the state.
“The last attorney general we had turned out to be our Governor,” Christina said, referring to Gov. Tom Corbett.
Derrick Magnotta, president of the Pennsylvania College Democrats, emphasized the influence young voters can have if they show up to vote.
“Young voters really do have the ability to sway the elections, especially primaries,” he said. “They can really have a big difference on the way the vote goes.”
Staff writers Huizhong Wu and Kai Syuen Loh and The Red and the Blue editor Steven Jaffe contributed reporting.