CHARLESTON, W.Va.– Voter turnout for West Virginia’s primary election Tuesday was a sparse 19.7 percent, a 4 percent drop from a similar 2010 midterm primary.
West Virginia kept trending downward in voter participation for non-presidential year primaries, according to unofficial totals released Thursday by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Midterm primary turnout has been cut in half since 1994, when 39 percent voted.
“It’s not only disconcerting,” said Robert Rupp, a West Virginia Wesleyan College political science professor. “It almost makes the system dysfunctional when you have such a low turnout.”
Voter turnout tends to lag in years without a presidential race on the ballot. The biggest drop-off occurs during party primary voting.
Unofficial results show 241,020 ballots were cast this election. About 46,800 people voted early and absentee combined, which Tennant’s office called a midterm primary record. It didn’t boost overall voting, however.
The slate of races Tuesday included few marquee matchups to attract voters to the polls.
A high-profile U.S. Senate race to replace retiring longtime Sen. Jay Rockefeller featured primaries for Democrat Tennant and GOP Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. Both easily defeated little-known opponents to set up a November matchup.
All three of West Virginia’s congressional seats are in play this year. But only the GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District was competitive. Alex Mooney, former Maryland GOP chairman, topped a field of seven Republicans vying for the seat Capito will vacate.
Former West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey easily won his 2nd District primary.
The entire 100-seat state House of Delegates is up for grabs with a six-seat Democratic majority on the line. But fewer than half of the 67 House of Delegates districts featured any primary challenge.
Only four of 17 Senate seats on the ballot included primary contests – two Democratic, two Republican.