The Campaign Spot

Yes We Can . . . Ignore Non-November Elections

We are told that one of the reasons Pat Toomey can’t win in Pennsylvania is that there’s been this huge surge in registered Democrats and a drop in registered Republicans.

Except that elections aren’t decided by those who register, they’re decided by those who vote. And it turns out that a lot of those new Democrats in the Keystone State aren’t interested in showing up for every election. At least in Centre County, where Penn State is located:

Voter registration rolls bloated from last year’s presidential politics did math with the lowest number of municipal-primary voters since at least 1996, when the county had a much smaller population.

Tuesday’s result was a stunningly low turnout of 16 percent . . .

But an even more arresting set of numbers from Tuesday’s primary is the one showing the total ballots cast by each of Centre County’s two major political parties: 7,223 Republicans and 7,017 Democrats.

Yes, more registered Republicans came out to vote Tuesday than registered Democrats. Can such things be?

Didn’t Barack Obama’s voter registration drives last year flip Centre County from red to blue? And didn’t three Democrats this spring compete for the county district attorney nomination, and presumably generate voter interest, while the Republican incumbent was merely running again and unopposed?

Read that again: More Republicans showed up, voting for an unopposed incumbent, than Democrats, even though three Democrats were competing for district attorney. More of these absent folks may show up in municipal elections in November 2009, or the primary and general elections in 2010. But so far, they’re not as interested in politics when Obama’s name isn’t on the ballot.

November 4, 2008 was a great day for Democratic turnout. But it was only one day.


The Latest