Monday, July 17, 2006 :::
It isn't just Virginia that has seen a lackluster primary election turnout. According to this USA Today piece, turnout has been weak all over the country, though Virginia's June primary is way out in front when it comes to no-shows:
Turnout hasn't cracked 40% in any state. In most, primary participation was in the 20%-30% range. Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia posted their lowest primary turnouts in at least eight years.
So far, the year's rock-bottom has come in Virginia, which did not have a 2002 primary. The June 13 Democratic Senate primary drew national attention and was open to all Virginians, regardless of their party. Fewer than 4% of more than 4.5 million eligible voters showed up to nominate former Navy secretary Jim Webb to face Sen. George Allen in November.
Read into this what you will. But aside from the numbers the one thing that leap out of this article was the last quote from long-time scold, Curtis Gans:
Still, he's concerned the no-shows have devalued the importance of voting. "We essentially have gotten rid of the religion of civic duty," Gans says.
I was unaware that civic duty was a "religion." And whether no-shows have "devalued" voting is highly questionable, especially considering Gans is quoted just before this as saying he expects general election turnout to be "comparatively high" owing to what he sees as the "polarization" surrounding President Bush.
So which is it? Will turnout be relatively high in the general, or have no-shows crippled the church of civic duty? Perhaps, if we accept Gans's characterization of civic duty as some sort of faith, voting in primaries is like attending church every week and voting in the general is like parachuting in for Easter services. Is that good, bad, or just an extension of a cheap metaphor?
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/17/2006