Ballot questions and mail-in balloting led to high voter turnout for the primary

Written by on May 20, 2021

 Ballot questions and mail-in balloting led to high voter turnout for the primary

By Megan Frank

May 20, 2021

Signs in front of the polling place in Hokendauqua. Photo | Genesis Ortega / WLVR

The 2021 primary election drew a historic number of voters in Lehigh and Northampton counties despite it being an off-year, municipal election.

So, WLVR’s Megan Frank checked in with a political expert to find out why.

Lehigh County recorded the highest voter turnout in a local primary since 2005. And Northampton County’s turnout was double that of recent years.

Christopher Borick, professor of Political Science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, says about 20% of registered voters cast ballots in both counties. 

“We’ll get in a primary election in an off-year and sometimes see single digit turnout. Getting into the 20-plus range in an off-year primary might not seem very good, if you’re thinking, well, that’s only one in five eligible voters. Historically, that’s pretty good,” Borick says.

Borick credits the high turnout to ballot measures that were open to all parties, including Independents, who can’t vote for Republican or Democrat candidates in primary elections.

“I do think, last night, the availability of those ballot measures to bring in Independents, along with the mail ballot access probably helped contribute to the higher-than-normal turnout that we saw,” he says. 

In Lehigh County, more than 17,000 mail-in ballots were returned. Northampton County had more than 15,000, Borick says. 

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