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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 03:05 PM ET, 05/19/2010

GOP turnout jumps in Kentucky

More ballots were cast in yesterday's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky than in the Republican, but the total number of votes cast masks a stunning turnaround in the state's historical turnout patterns.

Several bloggers (see examples here, here and here) have argued that Rand Paul's easy victory in the Republican primary may not mean much come November given the lower number of voters in the Republican contest. But such an analysis overlooks essential historical context. (Some also miss the critical fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by about 600,000 voters.)

According to data from Kentucky's Board of Elections, in no state primary going back to 1982 did Republican turnout top Democratic turnout, until this year.

At last update, 34 percent of registered Republicans and 32 percent of registered Democrats cast ballots yesterday. In contrast, in primaries since 1982, Democratic turnout has outpaced Republican turnout by an average 10 percentage points, with the narrowest Democratic advantage standing at 2.5 percentage points in the 2007 gubernatorial primaries. The largest gap was a whopping 29 percentage points in 1983.

Of course, the Democrats' edge in primary vote turnout hasn't always turned into an advantage in November, so this result doesn't translate directly into an edge for the Republicans this time, but it is a sharp deviation from nearly 30 years of voting statistics.

Kentucky primary election turnout % by party registration:

       Dem.   Rep.  D-R
2010   31.8   33.6  -1.8
2008   43.5   19.7  23.8
2007   22.4   19.9   2.5
2006   36.4   28.0   8.4
2004   16.0   13.2   2.8
2003   18.8   17.2   1.6
2002   37.0   28.7   8.3
2000   16.8   12.0   4.8
1999    7.9    4.8   3.1
1998   43.5   33.9   9.6
1996   21.2   15.7   5.5
1995   24.5   18.0   6.5
1994   17.8   12.9   4.9
1993   47.5   33.9  13.6
1992   31.0   19.0  12.0
1991   40.1   29.7  10.4
1990   27.3   14.7  12.6
1989   48.5   32.8  15.7
1988   25.7   12.2  13.5
1987   48.4   21.5  26.9
1986   18.6   12.2   6.4
1985   51.8   35.4  16.4
1984   21.3   12.0   9.3
1983   52.1   22.9  29.2
1982   15.8   12.6   3.2

SOURCE: Kentucky State Board of Elections

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  03:05 PM ET, 05/19/2010

Categories:  Voting

 
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