Earlier this week I took a look at early vote numbers complied by the Secretary of State’s office and wrote that it looked as though early voting in the 2016 primary would be above average but not exceptionally high.
It’s looking like I was wrong. When I wrote that on Monday there had been 20,952 early, absentee, and vote-by-mail ballots cast. As I write this, an additional 13,236 votes have been cast bringing the 2016 total so far up to 34,188.
Here’s what that looks like compared to the four previous election cycles:
The average early vote turnout of the 2008-2014 primaries was 29,997. Meaning that the 2016 voting, with still 4 days to go until primary day, is well above average.
What does this mean for the candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary?
I’m inclined to think this is good news for Doug Burgum. Although neither he nor his opponent, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, are technically incumbents in this race I think it’s very true that voters perceive Stenehjem as the status quo guy and Burgum as the candidate calling for change.
When turnout is up, that can be an indication that voters are ready for change.
Or it could just mean that early voting is up because there is a high profile competition on the June ballot. Often the primary ballot is just a bunch of candidates running unopposed for their party nominations, as well as local elections. When there are interesting ballot measures in June, as there was in 2012, or a heated primary fight between two candidates as there is this cycle it draws more attention.