Presidential primary turnout low in Monroe County

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Unofficial numbers from the Monroe County Board of Elections show single-digit turnout numbers for both major parties in this year’s presidential primaries.

On Tuesday, 7.1 percent and 7.7 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively.

AP has declared both Democrat President Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump their parties’ presumptive nominees.

In recent years, the highest turnout for a Democratic presidential primary was in 2008 when 45 percent of eligible Monroe County voters cast a ballot. The 2016 race was close behind with a 44 percent turnout. Both contests’ high turnout was likely due to the dramatic clash between the more established Hillary Clinton and newcomers, Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders eight years later.

Similarly, the Republican primary in 2016 featured a large starting number of candidates  and had a high turnout rate of 44 percent in the local area. By the time New York held its primary in April, all candidates besides Donald Trump had pulled out of the race, but John Kasich and Ted Cruz still won 24 percent and 15 percent of the vote, respectively.

The 2020 Democratic party primary, which had an early crowded field of candidates for Democrats, also achieved a high 33 percent turnout in Monroe County. 

Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota ran against President Joe Biden in early primaries but ended his campaign a month ago. Another challenger, author and spiritualist Marianne Williamson, in February suspended and then unsuspended her campaign. Like Phillips, she has won no delegates.

The only recent Democratic opposition faced by Biden this year has been in the form of “uncommitted” ballots, usually associated with protests against the ongoing Israeli-Palestine conflict. New York does not allow this option.

However, this has not stopped left-leaning critics. “Leave it Blank NY,” a statewide effort that includes the Rochester chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, pushed for voters to leave ballots empty in the lead-up to the primary election.

Whether or not their efforts made an impact won’t be known until weeks later, since blank ballots will be counted only in the certified results. The state Board of Elections has previously reported ballots left blank in unofficial results for the 2020 general election and 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

In Monroe County, Biden won 92 percent of counted Democratic primary votes. Marianne Williamson and Phillips had 4.8 and 3.1 percent of the vote, respectively.

Trump faced an early challenge from Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador in Trump’s administration, but her campaign stalled out in early March. In Monroe County, Haley received 18 percent of the votes. Trump received 74 percent of the vote.

Compared to this presidential primary, the upcoming state and local primary races in June could feature some competition.

For example, Demond Meeks announced his run for reelection to the 137th District state Assembly seat in January. Willie Lightfoot, who currently serves as a Rochester City Councilmember, is the Monroe County Democratic Committee’s designated primary candidate, however. Lightfoot’s cousin, John, unsuccessfully primaried against David Gantt in 2012 for the same position.

Other designated candidates include former Democratic Mayor Lovely Warren for Rochester City Court Judge and current Republican county legislator Tracy DiFlorio for the seat in the 138th Assembly district.

The state and local primary will be held on June 25.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

6 thoughts on “Presidential primary turnout low in Monroe County

  1. Surprise! Not really. I believe most people are disgusted with our politicians across the board. They spend their time winning elections and after they have won, begin running for the next election with promises they won’t or can’t fulfill.

  2. Absurd (and expensive) to have two separate primary dates. But it was amusing to see Trump lose 26% of the GOP vote to individuals no longer running for the presidential nomination.

    • Say Len….don’t you tire of this anti Trump attitude. I’m not a Trump fan but try my best to focus on the positive. Focus on the things I can change. Bashing the competition whether it is Dem vs. Rep. or Rep. vs. Dems, focus on the message not the anti. We have enough bashing going on regionally, nationally and internationally. Voice what you are for and why. Forget the finger pointing which only creates division. This is, for the moment, still the United States of America. Semper Fi.

  3. I seem to recall in 2016 then candidate Trump won the NYS Republican primary with 60% of the vote . I also recall he won either every county or every precinct (I have forgotten which) except his own in Manhattan (i think Kasich won there).

    • There are those that accentuate the positive and those who have nothing to offer other than hate and discontent. If you think that healing, correcting, adjusting etc etc. can take center stage with that attitude, think again. Then one day your time on this planet expires and you stood for nothing but hate. Right now we have two old dudes running for office. Am I happy about that? Nope. That said, I am still living in a very good place. What’s more, you or anyone else can leave and travel anywhere in the world. I have seen a considerable amount of that world. Semper Fi.

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