Where we ended up after the primary election

Voter turnout for Arizona’s August primary election increased across all fifteen counties in the state, some seeing the highest turnout in any election, according to George Khalaf, President of Data Orbital.

Turnout was up for both Republicans and Democrats, but the majority of the increase was on the Democratic side. “There were legislative districts that saw a 20 percent increase from previous elections. And republicans were up as well, but it was closer to 3 or 4 percent in most places,” Khalaf said.  

Legislative District 18 was the highest district from a turnout perspective compared to 2016 and 2014. “They (LD 18) saw close to a 17 percent increase from previous years… that is close to 9,000 new democratic ballots that came out relative to the last two elections,” said Khalaf. “It’s districts like that, I think, that give folks pause to say, what does this mean for the general election? Is there a takeaway? And what is that takeaway? LD 18 is really going to be the focal point.”  

Some traditionally Democrat districts such as Legislative District 24 (LD24) saw a tremendous increase in turnout. Khalaf attributes this to more contentious primaries among democrats, which has not been the norm in the past.

Typically, an incumbent fares well in a crowded primary, but that was not the case for Ken Clark in LD 24. Although Clark’s 2018 vote total was nearly identical to his 2014 vote total, approximately 6,600 votes, it wasn’t enough to win the primary. The top vote getter in the district, who had never run for office, received 10,000 votes.

“10,000 votes is what Clark, and even what Lela Alston who also used to be in the House, would usually get in a presidential year,” said Khalaf. “LD24 saw close to presidential year turnout and it showed up in the numbers. Turnout came out for the non-incumbents, both of them.”

But Khalaf cautions taking too much away from the primary as it is not a crystal ball in terms of voter behavior for the general election, but he did point out the increase in new voters. “There were a lot of voters that had never voted in a primary election before or had only voted in one out of the last primary elections and of these voters… I’d say about 70 percent of them are on the democratic side. If they show up on the general election, and they continue that kind of enthusiasm, that will definitely affect general election results.”

But it all comes down to which voters will actually cast their ballots in November. “Turnout, turnout, turnout, that is the most important thing that people are going to be talking about going into this general election,” Khalaf said.

There have been many polls recently regarding the U.S. Senate race in Arizona. Some have Martha McSally up a couple of points, yet others have Kyrsten Sinema with a small lead. Khalaf noted this is due to differences in projected electorate turnout reflected in the polling sample. “The same day that our firm put out a poll, Data Orbital, showing that Kyrsten Sinema was up by 4.5 percent–we had a Republican ballot advantage of 10 percent–there was another poll that came out that same day from OH Predictive that had McSally up by 3 percent and they had a Republican ballot advantage of 13 percent,” said Khalaf.

He noted that the OH Predictive poll had turnout numbers closer to what we would expect in a midterm, while the Data Orbital poll had Republican turnout a bit lower than a typical midterm. Khalaf mentioned a few other polls that have come out recently having republicans as the smallest voting block for 2018. “Oddly enough, there was a poll, put out by SSRS and CNN, which again, reputable outfits, they had republicans as the smallest ballot share–smaller than democrats and independents, which has not happened, I think, even in the last 25 years.”

Regardless of the polling, methodology and anticipated voter turnout, Khalaf said the U.S. Senate race is close. “That race is a toss-up and I think it’s going to be a sprint to the finish line. And again, it’s all about turnout.”

Lorna Romero

Graham Bosch

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