Saturday is the deadline to register to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary. Voter registration is up, but primaries often have very low turnout.
About 35,000 more Delawareans will be able to head to the polls for next month’s primary election than were registered in 2014, the last midterm. Whether those who registered actually show up on Election Day remains to be seen.
Statewide, as of Aug. 1, registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans 327,384 to 193,207. Another 160,160 voters declared no party. Including all minor parties, there are 693,585 registered voters.
The last midterm election primary in 2014 saw only a 7 percent turnout of Democratic voters. While Republicans doubled that with 14 percent, that means 93 percent of the state’s registered Democrats and 86 percent of registered Republicans skipped the primary.
The number of registered voters in Delaware has grown 7.84 percent since November 2014, according to statistics from the state Department of Elections. That percentage was fairly consistent across Democrats, Republicans and those who chose no party affiliation.
Only registered Democrats and Republicans are eligible to vote in the party primaries Sept. 6.
The deadline to register to vote in the Sept. 6 Primary Election is Saturday.
To register, visit https://elections.delaware.gov/services/voter/placestoregister.shtml
You can register to vote by applying with the Department of Elections. You can apply:By mail, by phone or in person Online Or at any of these state agencies while using their services: Division of Motor Vehicles (driver license and state ID services) Department of Health & Social Services Department of Labor
Of the 10 state Senate seats up for election, only one has a Republican primary and only two of the Senate seats have Democratic primaries.
All General Assembly House seats are up for election this year, but of the 41 contests, only three Republican races and 11 Democratic races will see primaries.
Turnout: up and down
Turnout is generally higher in presidential election years. In 2016, for example, 20 percent of the registered Democrats and 16 percent of the registered Republicans voted in the September primary, even though the ballot did not include the presidential primary, which was in April.
Almost 30 percent of registered Democrats and almost 38 percent of the registered Republicans voted in the presidential primary, according to statistics from the Delaware Department of Elections. And when the general election came in November, 65 percent of registered voters went to the polls. That compares with only 30 percent of the state’s registered voters casting their ballots in the 2014 general election.
Fewer voters means it takes fewer votes to win. In 2014, the only state legislative district race where a candidate received more than 1,000 votes was in Senate District 11, when Bryan Townsend earned 1,253. That represented 78 percent of the ballots cast. His opponent, David Tackett, received 352 votes.
Contrast that with the 2016 presidential election year when Joe McCole earned 1,596 votes in the Democratic Senate District 1 primary only to lose to Harris McDowell III. McDowell received 3,876 votes on his way to victory, or 71 percent of the total votes cast in the race. In all, 5,472 voters cast ballots in the race.
Different districts have different numbers of total registered voters. In Senate District 11, the Department of Elections counted 8,705 Democrats registered for the 2014 midterm election, meaning 18.44 percent of them voted. In McDowell’s Senate District 1 race, the 9,348 ballots cast represented 47 percent of registered Democrats.
The high percentage of Democratic voters turning out in McDowell’s race suggest that voters will head to the polls for highly contested seats, but are less likely to vote if there are fewer contested races.
In statewide contests, Democrats and Republicans will decide who moves on to the general election among candidates for U.S. Senate. Republicans will also decide who will take on incumbent Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester in the U.S. House race. Democrats, meanwhile, will see primaries for state Attorney General (there are four candidates) and Auditor of Accounts (there are three).
For Democrats and Republicans in the First State, time is running out to register to vote in the primary. The deadline to register is Aug. 11.