Most D.C. primary voters will cast ballots Tuesday at their local polling places, but more than 6,000 voters have already cast ballots at the city’s eight early voting centers. An additional 3,793 voters have requested absentee ballots, more than 1,700 of which have already been returned.
With few expecting citywide turnout to exceed 50,000, that means perhaps as much as 20 percent of the vote has already been cast. And statistics released by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics give some indication of where voter interest is greatest.
By that measure, Ward 4 stands to be a decisive battleground, responsible for 22 percent of the votes cast to date. Voting has also been heavy in wards 3 and 5 (17.8 percent and 17 percent, respectively), with the lowest early turnout in wards 1 and 2.
The vast majority of those votes are for Democrats. Here is a chart of Democratic votes alone:
In the at-large D.C. Council race, the geography of the early vote totals could be good news for Democratic incumbent Vincent B. Orange, who can take heart in relatively strong turnout in his home Ward 5 (which does not have a ward council race to drive turnout), as well as decent numbers in east-of-the-river wards he is hoping to dominate. But keep in mind top-voting Ward 4 is home to challengers Sekou Biddle and Peter Shapiro, and Orange is not expected to do well in Ward 3, which has also shown good turnout thus far.
If you’re assuming the race for the Republican presidential nomination and a rare contested GOP primary for the Ward 7 council seat might drive up GOP turnout — well, maybe it will a little. As it stands, Republican turnout is slightly outpacing Democratic turnout citywide, 2.24 percent to 2.10 percent. But GOP turnout is lagging in Ward 7, where Ron Moten and Don Folden Sr. are battling for the ward council nomination.
The chart also shows that turnout isn’t necessarily higher in the wards (4, 7 and 8) where there are contested ward council races. Three of the top four wards in early turnout (3, 5 and 6) have no ward race on the ballot.
Note that the ward breakdown by voter residence doesn’t necessarily match the ward breakdown by voting location:
Early voters could cast ballots in any of the eight locations, and many voters indeed left their home wards to do so. I can personally vouch for the phenomenon: I live in Ward 1 but voted at the King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Ward 6. Note also that relatively few Ward 2 residents cast early ballots, but a whole lot of early voters chose to cast ballots at the Ward 2 early voting location, downtown at One Judiciary Square — which also happened to be the only early voting location open between March 19 and 23.