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Lowest voter turnout in over a decade

Posted: 5:56 PM, May 15, 2024
Updated: 2024-05-15 17:56:02-04
Man votes in mostly empty polling place during Maryland Primary

There are still votes to be counted, but we have a solid picture of just how few people turned out to vote in the 2024 Presidential Primary.

As of 5 a.m. on Wednesday, the Maryland State Board of Election found that just over 720,000 voters turned out in some form to make their voices heard.

That's fewer than 1 in 5 eligible voters casting a ballot in the election.

It's also less than half the number of votes from the previous Presidential primary election.

In fact, as of Wednesday morning, it's the fewest votes in any primary — Presidential or Gubernatorial — since 2012.

We're taking an in focus look at how this year compares to prior primaries, as part of our commitment to giving you context and digging into the data.

The last primary in which Maryland saw even close to this number of votes was the Gubernatorial primary in 2014.

If there are more than 17,000 uncounted votes, 2024 could surpass that.

But we have surpassed the 2012 election, which could be a better comparison to this year than prior years anyway.

It's the last Presidential Primary election in which the incumbent president, seeking re-election was a Democrat. There was also a Senate race that year, though incumbent Senator Ben Cardin easily won his Primary race.

The number of eligible voters has remained around the same, so the decrease in the number of votes also closely correlates to the voter turnout percentage.

We'll have to wait another few days to see if we'll surpass the raw vote total for 2014, but for the state to surpass the voter turnout, there would need to be more than 76,000 additional ballots to be counted across the state.

While it's mainly mail-in ballots and provisional ballots left to be counted, we're not going to breakdown the different ways in which people voted to compare year to year, because COVID really messed that up.

The last presidential primary was in June of 2020, there was no early voting, and nearly 1.5 million people utilized mail-in ballots.

That kind of mail-in voting was on a scale we're unlikely to see again in the absence of those same kind of mitigating circumstances.

And prior to the pandemic, mail-in ballots were called absentee ballots because they were used for that reason — when someone couldn't physically go to the polls.

But every year, since at least 2012, more than 2 million eligible voters in Maryland have sat out of the primaries.

Millions of Marylanders sitting out of the primary, where there's arguably more of a chance than in the general, that a few votes here and there, especially in the local races, could make a huge difference.