Simon balks at primary prediction

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon says primary electiion turnout is historically inconsistent and difficult to predict. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is urging voters to show up for Tuesday’s primary election, to help narrow the field in several legislative and congressional races.

The state’s top election official is unwilling to predict what voter turnout might be for the primary, even though the numbers typically fall far below general election turnout. The primary sets the final slate of candidates for the November election.

There are primary contests in 28 legislative races and six congressional races. The only statewide contest is a nonpartisan race for a Minnesota Supreme Court seat that will narrow the field of candidates from three to two.

Simon said the lack of high-profile, statewide races makes it especially hard to predict turnout.

“The primary is not consistent in terms of what the turnout is, and it depends so much on the candidates and the campaigns and what’s on the ballot,” Simon said. “So, I’m hesitant to put out a number and make a prediction because it’s difficult to do in this particular type of contest.”

Simon noted last week that absentee voting numbers were “quite impressive.” But he said it was too soon to know what impact those early ballots will have on overall turnout.

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Minnesota’s switch from a September primary to an August primary six years ago hasn’t done much to boost the numbers. Turnout was just under 16 percent in 2010, thanks to a competitive race for governor. Turnout dropped to about 9 percent in 2012 and just over 10 percent two years ago.

“The move to August has probably at the margins meant a lower turnout, yes,” Simon said. “(That’s) one of the reasons in my opinion why we should think about changing it. I’ve been a fan of the June primary for quite some time.”

Here are Minnesota's voter turnout numbers, since 1950, for primary and general elections: