Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
About this Blog   |   On Twitter   |   Follow us on Facebook   |   RSS Feeds RSS Feed

Low Turnout Yesterday Says Little About November

Amy Gardner

Democrat Gerald E. Connolly of Fairfax County, the top elected official of the region's largest jurisdiction, won a decisive primary victory yesterday in Northern Virginia's 11th Congressional District against former representative Leslie L. Byrne.

But with less than 6 percent of registered voters participating in the election, the results don't say a whole lot about what could happen come November.

Connolly beat Byrne with nearly 58 percent of the vote to her 33 percent. In raw numbers, however, he won by just over 6,000 votes -- little more than 1 percent of the 11th Congressional District's 446,000 active registered voters.

Yesterday's dismal turnout was evident across the region, where four other congressional primaries were held. Turnout in the 8th District Democratic primary, where Rep. James P. Moran Jr. defeated Matthew T. Famiglietti with 87 percent of the vote, was just 3.4 percent. In the 10th District Democratic primary, where Judy M. Feder defeated Mike R. Turner with 62 percent of the vote, turnout was 1.9 percent. In the 11th, overall turnout was actually higher, at 5.5 percent.

Elections officials attributed the low voter participation to a variety of factors, including the drawn-out presidential primary, and the fact that congressional primaries in Virginia typically draw few voters.

The election was "completely under the radar," Fairfax General Registrar Rokey Suleman said yesterday. "I don't think a lot of people even knew it was happening."
Keith S. Fimian, the Republican nominee in the 11th District who will face Connolly in the fall campaign, speculated that the low turnout was actually a sign that voters are not energized by Connolly's candidacy, and that they are ready for change.

But the fact that Connolly drew more than 100,000 voters to the polls last November, when he won reelection as Fairfax County board chairman, suggests otherwise. So does the fact that Virginians turned out in record numbers for the presidential primaries in February. With a potentially competitive presidential contest in Virginia between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain -- and a U.S. Senate race between Democrat Mark R. Warner and Republican Jim Gilmore -- elections officials are predicting strong turnout this fall.

Fimian owns a home-inspection business, has the backing of retiring Rep. Tom Davis (whose seat is the one in question) and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. He will run a spirited campaign against Connolly, he said, because he believes the 11th remains in play for Republicans despite recent statewide elections in which the district has chosen Democrats.

Certainly some of the low turnout numbers from yesterday suggest that a Republican base remains strong in the 11th. Voter participation in the Democratic primary was particularly low in Prince William County and in the Mount Vernon and Sully districts of Fairfax -- all traditional Republican strongholds that have come out heavily for Davis in the past. If Fimian is to win in November, he must perform exceptionally well in those areas. Yesterday's anemic numbers there suggest that many voters who stayed home are Republican who might well participate in November on his behalf.

By Amy Gardner  |  June 11, 2008; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Amy Gardner , Election 2008/Congress , Election 2008/President , Election 2008/U.S. Senate , Gerald E. Connolly , James Gilmore III , Leslie L. Byrne , Mark Warner , Prince William , Thomas M. Davis III  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Connolly Wins 11th District
Next: GOP Delegate Slams Kaine's Motives

Comments

Why was this held yesterday? Why can't Virginia hold it's primaries on one day (presidential, congressional, school board...)? It's seems like there is an election every month or two and the road signs never say when the election is, and they often cross districts. Confusing all around!

Posted by: mclean | June 11, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Also add in the factors of the busyness of this time of year, the heat, and the looming storms. I have to confess that as I was headed home yesterday mid-afternoon (at the height of the heat) it took everything I had to stop off at my polling place and vote. All I wanted was to get home and out of the blistering heat--and I'm a very dependable, highly motivated voter.

Also, I think a lot of folks do tend to vote in the evenings on the way home from work--right as the big thunderstorms were brewing. Had that been me, I probably would have skipped it and gone straight home.

Posted by: HM | June 11, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Amy, I think that yesterday and again today you are wrong by continually categorizing yesterday's turnout as low.

'Low' as in compared to what?

The turnouts for the Fairfax County portion of Democratic Primaries were:

June 2008, 4.8% (228 precincts)
June 2006, 5.8% (83 precincts)
June 2005, 3.3% (224 precincts)
June 2004, 7.5% (70 precincts)
June 2003, 7.8% (only 4 precincts)
June 2002, no primary
June 2001, 2.3 % (204 precincts)

So yesterday was higher than some years and lower than others; but, actually the highest since 2001 when 200 or more precincts voted.

Using historical data, one can actually say that yesterday's turnout was a higher than might have been expected.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | June 11, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"...Mount Vernon and Sully districts of Fairfax -- all traditional Republican strongholds that have come out heavily for Davis in the past."

Come again? When did Mt. Vernon become a traditional republican stronghold?

Perhaps you meant Springfield?

Posted by: Amy, Amy, Amy | June 11, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

we all know the post is a shill for democrats but at least try to hide your biases

"Keith S. Fimian, the Republican nominee in the 11th District who will face Connolly in the fall campaign, speculated that the low turnout was actually a sign that voters are not energized by Connolly's candidacy, and that they are ready for change.

But the fact that Connolly drew more than 100,000 voters to the polls last November, when he won reelection as Fairfax County board chairman, suggests otherwise. So does the fact that Virginians turned out in record numbers for the presidential primaries in February."

Lets see here Connolly wasn't on the ballot in February and bragging about over 100,000 in a county of over 1 million pepople is pathetic

Idiot

Posted by: quit editorializing | June 11, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Keith Fimian is free to speculate and the WaPo will try to frame this as competitive, but a fool and his money are soon separated.

Fimian is about to get the biggest whuppin' of his life, bigger than any one he got on a football field.

Connolly will embarress Fimian in the debates and beat him like a drum with 60% of the vote.

At least Gary Baise had the good sense not to lose a personal fortune when he went up against Gerry Connolly.

After this race, there may be a move to have public political mercy killings to put such hopeless candidates out of there misery.

Posted by: Fimian has a lot to learn | June 11, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

So much stupidity here. First of all Fimian-Connolly debates? No one will watch them. Will they even make it onto tv? If so they'll be on Bravo or PBS #7 and people will only watch by accident.

Connolly drew voters to the polls in November? He was the only person on the ballot and caused the 10% turnout all by himself? I had no idea.

No, what will draw voters to the polls in November will be Barack Obama, the Messiah.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 11, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

McLean, I agree it would make more sense to have the congressional primaries the same day as the presidential, but Virginia law doesn't allow the school board caucuses to be held at the same time. Those caucuses can only be hosted by a political party, not run by the state elections committee.

Posted by: Arlington | June 12, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Isn't Fimian a blank slate to almost all of us now? What was Barack Obama five years ago to people outside of Illinois?

We could be surprised.

Posted by: NoVA | June 12, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company