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Early voting has concluded for the March 6 primary election. Friday’s final push sustained the record-setting pace of the last two weeks. The number of voters in each primary is the highest ever seen for a gubernatorial primary year and second-highest for any year in the top 15 counties:

  • This year’s Republican total trails only 2016 and the Democrats trail only 2008. In both cases, unresolved presidential nomination fights brought out record numbers of voters.
  • Compared to the last gubernatorial primary election in 2014, the number of voters in the Republican primary is up 15% while the number of Democratic voters more than doubled (107%).
  • Compared to the last presidential primary election 2016, Republican turnout is down 36% while Democratic turnout is up 4%.
  • For the first time since 2006, the number of Republican primary voters in those 15 counties was lower than the previous primary election.
  • For the first time since 2008, the number of Democratic primary voters exceeded the number of Republican primary voters.

Yet, despite these records, not quite 9% of registered voters have cast ballots so far in the 15 counties with the most registered voters, and last-day turnout failed to reach levels seen in 2008 and 2016.

Chart by Visualizer
Chart by Visualizer

This year’s record-setting turnout appears to be the driven more by past primary voters casting their ballots earlier rather than new voters coming to the polls.

The vast majority of primary participants so far have recently voted in the same party’s primary, according to an analysis of voting history (PDF) prepared by Republican strategist Derek Ryan. About 88% of Republican primary voters also cast ballots in at least one of the last four Republican primary elections. Nearly three quarters of Democratic primary voters so far have voted in at least one of the last four Democratic primary elections.

Younger and recently registered voters appear to be a very small portion of the primary electorate so far. Around 5% of Democratic primary voters registered since 2016, and voters under 30 represented just about 5% of the electorate.

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