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Will Minnesotans Turn Out On Primary Day?

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Minnesotans have earned a deserved reputation for turning out the vote on Election Day in recent years. During presidential election years, Minnesota has yielded a turnout rate of between 65 and 83 percent since 1952, including increasing totals of 65, 70, and 78 percent during the last three cycles (1996-2004), according to the Secretary of State.

But will Minnesotans turn out for the primary election this September 9th?

Turnout in primary elections has decreased substantially over the past 50+ years in the Gopher State (and throughout the country). In the 1950s, approximately 1 in 3 Minnesota voters participated in the primaries; by the 2000s, that number has been slashed to less than 1 in 7.

Still, Minnesotans are more apt to turn out on Primary Day if a high-profile statewide contest is on the ballot.

· Since 1950, when both senatorial and gubernatorial races are on the ballot, the primary turnout has been 28.4 percent (1952, 1954, 1958, 1960, 1966, 1970, 1978, 1982, 1990, 1994, 2002, 2006).

· When gubernatorial (but not U.S. Senate) races have been at stake, the turnout falls slightly, to 26.3 percent (1950, 1956, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998).

· When U.S. Senate races are on the ballot, without gubernatorial races, primary turnout in the Gopher State falls to just 17.0 percent (1964, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000).

· And when neither gubernatorial nor U.S. Senate races are at stake, turnout is just 14.4 percent on Primary Day (1968, 1980, 1992, 2004).

Will challengers (notably Priscilla Lord Faris) to Al Franken’s bid for the DFL U.S. Senate slot spur turnout next month? In a normal year, perhaps not. But interest is high this election cycle (generally, as well as for the U.S. Senate race), and the Gopher State will likely still be buzzing from the Convention held just the week prior.

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