By Adam Pagnucco.
The chart below shows change in turnout rate between the 2016 and 2020 primaries. This one is a bit tricky. The counties in red (Allegany, Anne Arundel and Caroline) allowed unaffiliated voters to vote in 2020 but not in 2016. Therefore, since unaffiliated voters turn out at lower rates than party members, these counties’ turnout change is skewed downward. The counties in green (Cecil, Kent, Saint Mary’s and Worcester) allowed unaffiliated voters to vote in 2016 but not in 2020. Their turnout change is skewed upward.
Throw out the counties which allowed unaffiliated voters to vote in one year but not the other and this trend emerges: the four jurisdictions in which turnout went up the most – Prince George’s, Charles, Baltimore City and Montgomery – are all heavily Democratic and have large populations of color.
Overall, the two parties are headed in different directions.
Statewide Democratic turnout increased from 44.1% in the 2016 primary to 48.7% this year. Every county except Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, Howard and Washington saw increases in the Democratic turnout rate. One might have expected 2016 turnout to be higher among Democrats because Bernie Sanders had not yet dropped out by the time Maryland voted (on April 26). Nevertheless, 2020 primary turnout was higher despite Sanders suspending his campaign months before Maryland’s election day (June 2).
Statewide Republican turnout fell from 46.5% in the 2016 primary to 35.6% this year. Every county in the state saw a decline in Republican turnout. This was probably affected by the fact that the 2016 Republican primary was still semi-competitive when Maryland voted on April 26 whereas the 2020 Republican primary has not been competitive at all.
Overall, the picture of significant turnout increases in majority-black jurisdictions like Prince George’s and Charles counties along with falling Republican turnout across the board should not be encouraging to the GOP. Maryland looks poised to see tons of Democratic voters rushing to the polls (or more likely, the mailbox) to demonstrate their fury against the current occupant of the Oval Office. One wonders how this will affect the various ballot questions and charter amendments across the state, especially the ones in Montgomery County.