CONCORD — The turnout in Tuesday’s primary election won’t quite reach the highest level ever, which came in in 2002, but Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicts that 166,000 Granite Staters will go to the poll, which will be among the highest turnouts for a state primary in New Hampshire history.
That’s particularly true among Republican, which should have their second-highest turnout ever, the veteran top state election official said.
Gardner told the New Hampshire Journal today that he believes 142,000 and 44,000 Democrats, for a total of 186,000, will vote. The GOP-heavy turnout is due, of course, to the fact that the Republicans have hotly contested primaries for all four top offices, as well as for many state legislative seats.
The Democrats have no primaries for high offices, with the top primaries being in the Concord area for a state Senate District 15 seat, and a primary for the District 5 Executive Council seat.
Gardner said 2002 had the highest number of votes cast — 155,000 Republicans and nearly 70,000 Democrats, for a total of 225,000 .The second highest primary turnout came in 2010, with 141,000 Republican and 60,000 Democratic ballots cast, for a total of 201,000.
Two years ago, there were 111,000 Republican and 87,000 Democratic ballots cast. That year, the Democrats and Republicans both had contested primaries for governor.
Gardner said he does not believe the turnout will be as strong as in 2002 but will be “more like” 2010, when there was a hotly contested GOP primary for the U.S. Senate among Kelly Ayotte, Ovide Lamontagne, Bill Binnie and Jim Bender. A GOP gubernatorial primary that year featured John Stephen versus Jack Kimball.
Gardner also said that for the first time, Massachusetts is holding its state primary on the same day as New Hampshire, rather than week later.
The talk about the Bay State’s primaries on radio is an ‘extra reminder,” said Gardner, for Granite Staters who commute into Massachusetts for work.
Gardner said 20 percent is a reasonable turnout prediction given that the voter checklist was purged in 2011. He said turnout percentages can be misleading, especially at the end of each decade before the purge of duplicate names takes place, but, “I think in the end that will hold up.”
“After a purge you can take off one-third of the names on the checklist,” which boosts percentage, he said.
In any event, the turnout, said Gardner will certainly surpass Vermont’s 8 percent and Maine’s 10 percent earlier this summer.
He said if his predictions hold, it would be the first time Republican outpace Democrats in going to the polls by a better than 3-to-1 ratio.