The back-and-forth over Tuesday's closed GOP primary — and the ultimate voter turnout — just keeps on keeping on.
Today, Idaho GOP rules committee chairman Ronald M. Nate weighed in with a statistical analysis on the 2008, 2010 and 2012 primaries, and suggested the turnout reveals a sharp decline in Democratic voters.
It's a bit more detailed look at the numbers than the shallow quick hit sent out Wednesday by the Idaho GOP, comparing the vote counts from 2008 and 2012. As Nate rightly notes, it's not easy to compare results from one election to the next. But his takeaway focuses on the drop in the Democratic vote from 2008 to 2010 to 2012.
"To the remaining Democrats: Rather than carping that Republican rules are killing turnout, perhaps you and your party could do something to improve turnout. Maybe some better ideas, better attitudes, or more candidates would help?"
But this isn't just about getting in a dig at the Democrats. As the Republican state convention approaches — and some Republicans publicly float the idea of revisiting the party primary rules — look for more intraparty debate about the results of the inaugural closed primary.
Here is Nate's essay:
Idaho Democrats have a problem. They are bleeding support. With all the speculation about the Republicans' move to closed primaries possibly hurting voter turnout; the actual vote totals tell a startling story.
To make a fair comparison, let’s look at voting in both U.S. congressional races from 2008, 2010, and 2012. In both districts the votes went up and then down over the three primary elections.
Congressional District 1 (western and northern Idaho)
2008 2010 2012
Democrat votes: 19,449 11,407 10,076
Republican votes: 68,340 81,288 71,774
Total: 87,789 92,965 81,850
Congressional District 2 (eastern and southern Idaho)
2008 2010 2012
Democrat votes: 16,652 13,291 12,427
Republican votes: 58,233 77,458 72,726
Total: 74,885 90,749 85,153
Now, elections from different years are not directly comparable. There are different candidates, different races (U.S. Senate races in 2008 and 2010, but not 2012), different intensities (the gubernatorial and congressional contests in 2010 were especially heated), and different election formats and rules. So, zeroing in on changes due to closed primaries is not as easy as it sounds. Also, looking at percentage turnout can be misleading, especially because of the registration push this year. (Higher registrations increase the denominator in calculating the percent turnout, making turnout look lower even though more Idahoans may be participating.)
Perhaps the two most comparable races — although not perfect — are the 2008 and 2012 contests (both being presidential election years). Notice, that compared to 2008, the 2012 numbers were down in CD1, but higher in CD2. That’s a mixed result, giving no clear answer about how turnout was affected by changing primary rules.
The most dramatic story is how the Idaho Democratic Party is in serious trouble. Look at the trend for the Democrat voting across the three elections. In both congressional districts, the votes for Democrats trended down. This is despite the overall totals spiking in 2010 and dropping again in 2012. Democrat voting is in free-fall.
The same trends held for local counties as well. In both Bonneville and Madison counties, the Republican and totals spiked in 2010 and went down again in 2012. For the Democrats, though, the numbers steadily declined from 2008 to 2012. In fact, the Bonneville Democrat voting last Tuesday was less than half what it was in 2008.
There has been some talk about how the Republicans' move to closed primaries was hurting turnout. Not so; Republican voting increased from 126,573 in 2008 to 144,500 on Tuesday. Perhaps some Democrats registered as Republicans. If so, welcome aboard!
To the remaining Democrats: Rather than carping that Republican rules are killing turnout, perhaps you and your party could do something to improve turnout. Maybe some better ideas, better attitudes, or more candidates would help?