Voters turn out in record number for primary

Herald Times: Monroe County on Tuesday night beat its record-making primary voter turnout.

Monroe County on Tuesday night beat its record-making primary voter turnout.

A total of 38,326 voters cast a ballot either before or on Election Day in this year’s primary, surpassing the record turnout in 2008 and blowing the turnout in other recent presidential primaries out of the water.

Ultimately, 3,870 more people cast ballots in 2016 than in 2008.

And while the percentage of registered voters casting ballots was higher in 2008, that’s because there was a purge of the voter rolls in 2007, said William Ellis, who chairs the Monroe County Republican Party and also sits on the county’s election board.

Both Ellis and Mark Fraley, chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Party, said they were pleased by the record turnout this year.

“I’m really excited that we’ve had turnout higher than in previous years,” Fraley said.

Fraley said while the contested presidential races certainly were a factor, Monroe County had other elements contributing to its high turnout.

He pointed specifically to the message of Shelli Yoder, who secured the Democratic nomination for the 9th Congressional District, as another motivator for high voter numbers at the local level.

Ellis said the race for the Republican nomination in the 9th District also drove turnout. He also pointed to excitement around the race for the Democratic nomination for the Monroe County Board of Commissioners seat from which Iris Kiesling is retiring.

Both party leaders said they’re looking to carry momentum from the primary election into November.

Ellis said he thinks the turnout in the general election will beat Tuesday’s counts — though that statement came with a condition.

“This election is really going to tell if it’s going to be about ideology or if it’s going to be about the political parties,” he said.

If candidates can focus on ideals and positions on issues, Ellis said, turnout will be high. But if focus turns to the parties themselves, that might not end up being the case, he said.

2004: 14,002 (14 percent)

2008: 34,456 (45 percent)

2012: 15,530 (16 percent)