Today’s Crystal Ball(ots)
Saturday, February 9th, 2008
NEW YORK, NEW YORK — The 2008 nominating contests are highly contested and are attracting record turnout levels in State after State. Candidates are doing their best to maintain this upward trend in turnout; however, Republican turnout is sure to falter after Super Tuesday’s results.
For the Democrats, in this spectacle horse race, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to inspire new voters who feel their individual voices will sway the results. For the Republicans, the story-line is different. John McCain has a confident lead over Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. The Republican race is no longer a tight one. However, Mike Huckabee was clear at this morning’s CPAC that he will not back out of the race. 27 States have yet to weigh-in on choosing their candidate, and according to Mike Huckabee, “People in these States deserve more than a coronation. They deserve an election.”
Historically, Louisiana has experienced low turnout in primaries. In 2004, turnout was 7.2%, and in 2000, turnout was 8.3%. This time around, the pundits are claiming 15% turnout. I am crossing my fingers for more, although reportedly, people in Louisiana are confused about whether or not they are allowed to vote. New and Independent voters are being turned away, because Louisiana’s Primaries are ‘closed,’ which means only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in their respective elections. Criticism of those rules aside, unfortunately Louisiana’s turnout will be less than the amount of Louisianans hoping to exercise their franchise.
Washington is considered a harbinger of flexible, forward-thinking election law. Washingtonians vote-by-mail. Traditionally, the State sports high voter turnout in General Elections, yet Washingtonians choose their candidate via caucusing. Caucuses, lengthy and publicly overt processes, are anachronistic to the modern voter and prevent the masses from participating. In response, Washington Secretary of State, Sam Reed, is holding a non-binding Primary on February 19th. Although “turnout stats will be unavailable for a while,” Patrick Bell with the State Republican Party told me that “based on the amount of phone calls and website hits this could be the largest turnout since 1980.”
Nebraska is even more confusing. Traditionally, Nebraska holds a Primary. This year, Nebraska is having a Democratic Caucus and a Republican Primary (on May 13th). In 2004, turnout was 18.2%, and in 2000 turnout was 27.1%. The Democratic contest has been the driving force behind record turnout levels nationwide, but again because there is a Caucus, turnout won’t break any records. Like Louisiana, Nebraska’s nominating contests are ‘closed.’
Election law and caucus rules are too often overlooked by the typical punditry. They, and also the candidates, determine which subsets of the population are able to participate. ‘Closed’ contests prohibit droves of new voters and Independents from showing up at the polls. In Iowa and New Hampshire, states with Same-day Registration and ‘open’ contests, turnout levels sky-rocketed. But Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska have not yet opened up to election improvements when deciding their nominees, and as such, will most likely not experience a turnout explosion as some are predicting.
Stay tuned for more campaign coverage!