BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Polls will open Tuesday morning across West Virginia for the 2014 primary, but voting officials are not expecting a huge turnout to select the nominees for the November general election.
“You’re narrowing down the field,” he said. “Someone said 60 percent of all elections are settled in January when you file, so you figure out who won’t be your opponent. But then 30 percent is on the primary. Will the party pick the strongest candidate?”
According to records from the Secretary of State’s office, the voter turnout in West Virginia for the 2010 primary election–the last midterm primary election in West Virginia—was 24 percent, which was down from 26 percent during the 2006 midterm primary.
In the 2010 midterm general election, voter turnout was 42 percent, while 44 percent went to the polls four years earlier during the 2006 midterm general election.
A presidential race doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.
During the 2012 general election, a presidential election year, West Virginia had the lowest voter turnout in the nation with about 47 percent of voters casting ballots. The U.S. Census Bureau said West Virginia was the only state where less than half of eligible voters made it to the polls.
A small number of voters, Rupp said, casting ballots in the primary could be a big factor in the crowded race for the Republican nomination for Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District. Seven candidates are seeking the nomination on Tuesday.
“In this case, with low turnout and multiple candidates, you could win this election with (less than) 16 to 20 percent (of the vote),” he said.
Though Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) is expected to easily win nomination in the 3rd District, Rupp said the number of votes for his primary opponent, Richard Ojeda, could say a lot about Rahall’s chances for re-election against Sen. Evan Jenkins (R-Cabell, 5), the likely Republican nominee, in November.
If Ojeda pulls in a lot of votes, “It’s another sign that (Rahall) is in trouble and, as we know in past presidential primaries, West Virginians do use the primary to cast a negative vote,” said Rupp. In the 2012 primary election, 41 percent of Democratic voters voted for Keith Judd, a Texas prison inmate, instead of President Barack Obama.
Local contests could drive voters to the polls this time, because races for county school boards across West Virginia are non-partisan, so the results Tuesday will be final. “That’s a key election,” Rupp said. “That election really has to do with the future and our kids.”
The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. MetroNews will provide complete coverage of the results of the statewide races on the air on the MetroNews Radio Network and online at WVMmetroNews.com starting at 7 p.m.