Gardner predicts 168,000 voters next week
Print This Post
(CONCORD, NH) New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is projecting 168,000 voters to cast ballots in next week’s Direct Primary elections. Gardner expects 102,000 Republicans and 66,000 Democrats to vote, in person or by absentee ballot to determine who will be on the November General Election ballot.
Gardner bases his turnout estimates on current voter rolls, absentee ballot requests, and historic comparisons. He sees this year’s September primary most closely tracking with the 1996 race, in which Republican Ovide Lamontagne beat out Congressman Bill Zeliff for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Lamontagne is seeking the same office again this year, facing rival Republican Kevin Smith.
“If you look at the latest voter registration numbers from August 8th, it’s a little different from the results after the Presidential Primary, but the spread between Republicans and Democrats is about the same,” Gardner explains. “The undeclareds have gone up by about 6,000.”
Predicting turnout is complicated by New Hampshire election laws which lets new voters register at the polls on Election Day. For the first time, voters will have to show a photo ID at the polls next week, or fill out a form attesting to their right to vote.
Gardner says statewide primaries drive turnout, especially when the candidates raise voter awareness with lots of television ads. Lamontange and Smith, along with Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Jackie Cilley and Maggie Hassan, are all on the air, but no one is buying the kind of airtime that drove high turnout in 2002 and 2010.
Nearly 156,000 Republican voters set a record in 2002 as Craig Benson, Gordon Humphrey, and Bruce Keough flooded the airwaves in that September’s primary for Governor. Congressman John Sununu knocked off incumbent Senator Bob Smith is the GOP Senate primary in a race that drew national headlines, but served as the undercard for the most expensive gubernatorial primary in New Hampshire’s history.
The GOP approached that record in 2010 as 141,000 voters narrowly selected Kelly Ayotte over Lamontange as their Senate nominee. Businessmen Bill Binnie and Jim Bender contributed lots of campaign commercials, but finished far back.
New Hampshire Democrats saw their highest turnout ever in 1992 with over 91,000 votes cast, as Arnie Arnesen won a tightly contested gubernatorial primary over Ned Helms and former Congress Norm D’Amours. Republican turnout was also high at 119,000 as Steve Merrill bested Ed Dupont and Liz Hager for the GOP nomination, and beat Arnesen in November of that year.
Primary turnout doesn’t necessarily predict voter behavior in November. The 2002 and 2010 Republican waves came after high turnout primaries, and Republicans had their worst showing in modern history following the low turnout 2006 primary. But Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen cruised to re-election and Democrats won control of the State Senate for the first time in decades after just 33,000 Democrats cast ballots in the September 1998 primary. Gardner says what matters is the number and the intensity of the primaries on each side of the ballot.
“Governor and Senate, those state wide races drive turnout, especially when they’re on TV,” Gardner adds. “We’ve got a lot of State Senate primaries this year, but that evens out across the counties.”
Comments are closed.