Md. primary turnout fail reflects voter registration win

April 5, 2012


Maryland voters fell as short as they did this week in part because the bar was set high.

Yes, there’s a hidden win in Tuesday’s turnout fail, when, according to early tallies, about 21 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Maryland’s presidential primary — the lowest proportion in 32 years, my colleague Steve Kilar reports.

The upside to the low turnout quotient is the pace by which the denominator has grown. Buoyed by the historic 2008 presidential election cycle, when registered voters rose more than 10 percent over the previous cycle, over the last decade, voter rolls grew more than twice as fast as the population.

From February 2000 to February 2010, Maryland added more than 825,000 voters to its active rolls, to surpass 3.4 million, a growth rate of 32 percent, according to state Board of Elections data. Over the same period, the state added 480,274 adult residents, to surpass 4.4 million, a growth rate of 12.2 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

Since 2010, active registered voters have climbed further to more than 3.5 million.

While not a perfect comparison — not everyone 18 or older is eligible to vote — the striking difference suggests that, despite motor voter woes, voter registration efforts have been relatively successful.

Had they been less successful, Tuesday’s turnout likely wouldn’t have been quite as dismal. (I qualify because it depends on who stayed home more, recent registrants or established ones. Generally, voting patterns favor the former.)

So, even amid historically abysmal numbers, the glass is half full. Hmm, maybe I should run for office.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)

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