SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota voters apparently don’t care as much about deciding who will run for the general election as they do voting for the eventual candidate in November.
Overall participation in primary elections in South Dakota has been on a downward path since the early 2000s. The primary election is when registered voters in political parties choose between the party candidates running for a position.
For example on June 7, registered Republicans can vote between incumbent Dusty Johnson and challenger Taffy Howard for the U.S. House of Representatives.
That race along with the Republican primary between Gov. Kristi Noem and current state Rep. Steven Haugaard plus a primary in the U.S. Senate race could draw voters to the polls on Tuesday.
Johnson had a challenger in 2020 and so did Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds.
The state lists voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters for the general election. It lists voter turnout as the percentage of people who had a ballot available to them for the primary election. In general, an active voter would be registered and have had a ballot available.
In 2020, 28.22% of all active voters in the state participated in the primary election. But 73.88% of registered voters participated in the November general election. The total number of voters in the primary election was 154,328 compared to 427,529.
Lack of primary races in the Democratic Party can account for some of the decline but even when there were several candidates for races in Republican or Democratic parties, the participation didn’t crack 40% after the mid-2000s.
In 2010, 34% of active voters participated. There were five Republican candidates for governor that year. There was also three Republican candidates for U.S. Representative.
The percentage dropped to 21% in 2012 when the primary included several Republican candidates for president and two Democratic candidates for U.S. House.
In the 2012 primary election, there were 91,736 votes from the 441,385 active voters in the state.
The general election turnout for 2010 was 62.27% and nearly 70% for 2012.
The height of voter turnout for primaries has been the mid-2000s and early 2000s.
In 2008, 50.65% of Democrats voted in the primary while 28.31% of Republicans did. The state had a general election voter turnout of 73%.
The state did a similar breakdown for 2006 and 2004. In 2006, 47.68% of Republicans voted while 37.97% of Democrats did. In 2004, 48.14% of all active voters participated, which included 38.68% of Republicans.
The turnout was lower in 2002 when 42% of voters participated including 50.3% of Republicans and 40.1% of Democrats.
The mid-2000 and early 2000 primaries included several races with two candidates in the Democrat and Republican parties.