Alabama’s primary runoff elections see just 13% voter turnout
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - New information from Alabama’s secretary of state shows a little less than 13% of the state’s registered voters showed up for Tuesday’s primary runoff election, which helped decide some of the candidates who will be on November’s ballot.
Secretary of State John Merrill said he predicted the turnout, a small number of voters making decisions for a large population. Typically, runoffs see lower turnout because there are fewer candidates.
“They became spectators instead of participants,” said Merrill of the 87% of voters who did not show up to the polls Tuesday, compared to the 12.74% who did. In fact, Merrill said the voter turnout in the past four primary runoff elections has failed to top 20%.
The 12.74% turnout equates to just 464,577 of the state’s 3,647,310 registered voters taking part Tuesday.
“People vote when they want to vote, when something is important to them, and when they are encouraged by the candidate,” said Merrill. “There, they vote when they want to have their voice heard.”
Voting rights advocate Kynesha Brown said voters also show up when they are educated, noting “a lot of voters didn’t even know who were the Democratic gubernatorial candidates.”
Brown believes organizations can do a better job of educating voters, but added people who don’t vote shouldn’t be shamed.
“What they’re missing in that conversation is talking about why they need to go vote for a particular person or why their vote matters in local elections,” said Brown.
She compares the importance of voting to the lottery.
“You may not have that person that you wanted to be elected in that position, or you may vote for someone you got behind and they turned out to be a disappointment,” she said, “but you still have that same right as you voted that person in to also vote them out.”
Brown also says physically getting to the polls is a challenge for some. A Montgomery-based organization called Rolling To The Polls helps mitigate that, as doe other organizations across the state.
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