Politico's Kyle Cheney noticed something interesting about Donald Trump's big primary wins on Tuesday night. With a number of states still to vote — including the largest, California — Trump is poised to set a new record vote total in Republican presidential primaries. The current record is held by George W. Bush, with his 10.8 million votes in 2000. Trump, according to RealClearPolitics, is currently at a little north of 10 million.
If 10 million or 12 million or 15 million sounds like a lot to you, try some perspective:
- There are roughly 142 million voters overall in the United States as of the November 2014 election cycle (numbers are bound to go up a little for 2016).
- If turnout is anything equal to the 2012 election, we're expecting 129 million actual voters (out of 313 million residents).
- There are no official numbers of registered Republicans, but if we're looking at primary turnout, the total turnout of 25 million - not just for Trump but for all the other 16 wannabes who failed - is about 17 percent of the total registered voter count. And to be fair, the Democrats are seeing smaller turnout numbers at around 12 percent of the total voter count (the excuse being a simple two-player race of Hillary vs. Bernie).
Overall voter turnout for the primaries looks to be 29 percent of the registered count.
That's obscenely low.
Part of the problem is that the independent non-party voters cannot vote in Closed Primaries, which is most of them. A Closed Primary makes sense for a party to host because it encourages party membership... except that it doesn't. There is no way a majority of Party members - neither Republican NOR Democrat - are contributing their time and energy towards selecting their own party nominee.
It boils down to choices, and a lack of them. Let's be blunt, if the voters who DIDN'T SHOW UP for a Primary were counted as "No Confidence" None-Of-The-Above votes, none of the last remaining names would be standing. Nobody would be. Which is why we don't get "None of the Above" as a ballot choice.
There ought to be other ways - better ways like full holidays or mandating a minimum voter count before the elections can be closed and confirmed - to encourage higher participation. To me, higher participation means getting more voices involved, more choices offered up to appeal to the broader range of voters. As it stands right now, the only candidates who run are the ones who think they can appeal to the extremists as those extremists are the only ones guaranteed to show up to vote.
Which makes the rest of us suffer because we don't end up with good choices at all. Just desperate ones.
If we ever get a primary where over 50 percent of the voter population actually shows up, then I'll buy the argument that the will of the people is being heard and that the winning candidate is truly reflective of the national mood and momentum. Otherwise, they're all just weak offerings to the Old Gods and the New.