Most election experts are predicting a voter turnout for the June 3 primary of about 25 percent of the state’s registered voters. Simply put, that means three out of four voters are staying put.
Why so little interest?
Voters tend to be much more interested in presidential elections than state elections. In addition, they're more inclined to vote in the November general election than the primary when there are so many candidates duking it out. Put those two facts together and we’ll have a low—maybe record low—turnout next week.
That prediction may produce a big “ho hum” from the electorate, but in fact, turnout matters. With low voter turnouts, tax issues tend not to fare as well because those who vote tend to be disproportionately white, male, older, Republican, and more affluent than most. These voters are more cautious about spending proposals.
Those who stay home tend to tend be minorities, young voters, Democrats and independents, and people with lower incomes. This group tends to be more concerned about government services and programs.
So, combined, the circumstances that produce low voter turnouts yield more conservative outcomes in the primary than in the general election.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but they are just that—exceptions.
So, if you’re wondering in advance of the election about the fate a particular issue or candidate, bear in mind the general rule above.
Happy voting—or not!
Dr. Larry Gerston is a political science professor at San Jose State University. He also serves as a political analyst for NBC Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @lgerston.