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Missoula’s Low Voter Turnout Could Spell Trouble for Democrats

Missoula County
Photo courtesy of Missoula County Website

According to the Secretary of State’s final election numbers, of 77,383 registered voters in Missoula county, only 23,450 voted. That puts Missoula’s voter turnout at 30.13% which is lower than the last election. Only two other counties had lower voter turnout than Missoula (namely Big Horn and Gallatin Counties). The Secretary of States website does not break down the ballots returned into parties (which would be absolutely interesting to see), but if you take a look at Missoula county there is a bit of a pattern to the low voter turnout problem. Namely, the precincts that heavily favor Democrats (Paxson 1 by the University at 23.87% turnout) are lower than Republican leaning precincts (Coldsprings 1 at 48%, Petty Creek 1 at 53%). There are likely a variety of reasons for this, i.e. no major contest for governor’s position on the Democrat ballot, many seats uncontested, e.t.c. However, there is one reason, namely the lack of an energized base, that could be a major sign of things to come when the main event arrives in November. As a whole, Missoula is a very blue county. Low voter turnout in Missoula during the general election would be crushing to the Democrats chances at the big political prizes. There will undoubtedly be a bigger, better turnout in November, but the question each party should be asking is “will it be big enough?” Republicans are fighting an uphill battle against gerrymandered districts and a system that has seen all five statewide offices firmly controlled by Democrats for a long while. Democrats, on the other hand, have to deal with the perspective that they can no longer run on “change” as they have now become the status quo. No matter what happens, the conflict promises to be interesting.

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