Updates with new vote counts below.
According to the live early vote count page on the Secretary of State’s website, as of the time of this post over 40,000 North Dakotans have voted in the June primary.
That’s a strong turnout compared to previous cycles. It seems unlikely now that we’ll reach the level of the 2014 primary, where over 49,000 North Dakotans cast their votes early on a ballot which included three strongly contested statewide measures, but it’s certainly a historically high level of turnout:
An elevated early vote turnout would logically indicate that there will likely be an elevated level of turnout on primary day, too, and as I’ve noted before a strong turnout is probably a good sign for Burgum. Typically voters go to the polls when they want change.
But I’ve been rethinking that theory a bit. After all, the high water mark for primary day turnout is 2012, and in that cycle North Dakotans didn’t turn out to vote for the change represented in that cycle by ballot measures. They turned out to defeat them. Three of the four measures – including a measure to abolish property taxes, a referendum on the Fighting Sioux nickname law, and a religious liberty amendment – all flopped.
So maybe high turnout just indicates a strong interest in voting, and isn’t necessarily an indicator of outcomes for the candidates.
One thing that definitely looks like bad news for Burgum are these vote totals from Cass County, home to Fargo where Burgum is best known. Both Burleigh (Bismarck) and Grand Forks Counties have more votes so far than Cass County despite lagging behind Cass in population (I threw in some of the state’s other large population counties for comparison):
That’s pretty unusual. Grand Forks County, an area where Stenehjem lived and represented in the Legislature for decades – has strong mayoral and city commission races on the ballot, but then Fargo also has an 11-candidate city commission race along with busy school and park board races as well.
It’s strange that early turnout in Cass is so low, and if I were the Burgum campaign I’d be worried.
UPDATE: Of course, just hours after I write a post about low turnout in Cass County thousands of votes from Cass County get reported. Here’s an update of the graph above as of 4:27pm, which shows Cass County up about where you’d expect it to be in comparison to the other counties, and the total early vote over 45,000.
If you keep checking the link above you can see the live vote counts as they’re reported to the Secretary of state.