Voters typically don’t turn out in droves in non-presidential election years, and participation is even lower in primaries. In the 2010 midterm primary, only 24 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The 2012 presidential primary year produced a 28 percent turnout, while the 2008 primary yielded 43 percent. This year about 46,800 people voted early including absentee ballots, which Secretary of State Natalie Tennant called a state midterm primary election record.
That may have been a record early vote, but the end result for voting was not a record, unless it was for the lowest vote turnout in history. Only 19.7 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in West Virginia’s May primary. Ten years ago the number was 39 percent or nearly twice as many.
West Virginians who used to vote in the 50 to 70 percent range are giving up on the election process. That means that a very small percentage of citizens are making decisions about who represents us in Washington and Charleston and in county or city government. If the voters are giving up why should those elected not do the same. We deserve what we get.
West Virginia has never elected a female US senator and hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since the 1950s. For the first time in history there will be a female United States Senator from West Virginia. Both Democrats and Republicans selected women in the primary and the betting is on Republican Shelley Moore Capito to fill that slot. There is a Libertarian candidate, and he’s from Hardy County, but we don’t think he had much of a chance against these two women.
Open Senate seats are a rarity in West Virginia politics. Jennings Randolph, a Democrat, had a 25-year Senate stint before Rockefeller’s five terms. State icon Robert Byrd, also a Democrat, kept his seat for a half-century until he died in 2010. Former Gov. Joe Manchin, a popular conservative Democrat, locked up Byrd’s seat in 2010, with Carte Goodwin filling in for only a few months as an appointee.