Democratic Turnout Fails to Live up to “Blue Wave” Expectations In PA


PA Governor Tom Wolf


With the Pennsylvania primaries underway, voter turnout doesn’t seem particularly high. These elections do not yet determine who will take political office, but rather they choose the candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties who will run against each other. The following elections will put the new voting districts to the test after being redrawn earlier this year to restore balance to a perceived Republican advantage.

The Democrats have all the more reasons to have a higher turnout this year. After suffering significant setbacks all across the nation in 2016, losing not only the presidential election, but gubernatorial, Senate, House, they have seen a litany of policies and headlines contrary to their vision for the country. Especially appalling to the Democrats were tax cuts, loosened environmental regulations and President Trump’s foreign policy. The Trump Administration has cut more regulations than even Ronald Reagan’s administration as per the Heritage Foundation, which many Democrats believe will give big corporations the freedom to mistreat workers, pollute the environment or fail to pay for the damages they cause. Republicans argued the contrary that the policies and regulations were never effective in the first place and only slowed down the economy by giving businesses more bureaucracy to wade through.

Furthermore, many Democrats see an opportunity to make a comeback in the midterms and, eventually, the 2020 presidential election. They know it is common for the opposite party of the president to take the majority of Congress in the midterms, and hope to use the personal life of President Trump to damage conservative popularity in general. Many Democrats are speaking of an apparently impending (according to them) “blue wave” for the purposes of at least obstructing any further Republican legislation from passing. High voter turnout on the Democratic side will be imperative in achieving this goal.

In spite of all these losing issues and them having every motivation to turn around the momentum, voter turnout in the Democratic primary is disappointingly low relative to their expectations. Early projections estimate about 20 to 25% of the almost 800,000 registered Democrats in the city of Philadelphia will vote to select the Democratic candidates of their choice this year. By 5pm Eastern Time, an estimated 123,000 registered Democrats had cast their vote. The last primary back in 2014 saw about 165,000 Democrats by comparison.

These numbers are estimated by a private project by Jonathan Tannen called “Sixty Six Wards,” who uses volunteer submissions from voters of their number and location in order to estimate the total number at the present time, but only for the city of Philadelphia. As cities tend to run heavily Democratic across the nation, there are only about 117,000 total registered Republicans in Philly. This low number means it is currently not possible to track Republican voter turnout as of yet.

There are several possible explanations for the low voter turnout. Severe weather for Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, including flash flood and thunderstorm warnings, could convince some to stay home. Other Democrats have simply lost faith in the electoral system’s ability to represent their needs and interests, and feel their single vote will not impact the outcome. Finally, some analysts simply think that people don’t bother to vote in primaries where there are no particularly controversial or interesting candidates because no matter the winner, a candidate that represents their beliefs will be running.

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