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Preliminary turnout estimate -- maybe higher than declared?

The number may inch higher in the final count, but it appears that less than one Philadelphia Democrat out of every 14 bothered to go to the polls on Tuesday

Preliminary turnout estimate -- maybe higher than declared?

Minority clerk Dori Lenz awaits voters at the 8th ward, 6th division polling location on the third floor of the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia, May 21, 2013.  ( DAVID M WARREN / Staff <br />Photographer )
Minority clerk Dori Lenz awaits voters at the 8th ward, 6th division polling location on the third floor of the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia, May 21, 2013. ( DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer )

Another look at the city’s unofficial voting returns, buttressed by some absentee ballot figures made public Wednesday, suggests that the overall turnout in Tuesday’s primary ranged anywhere from 7.8 percent to 9.7 percent, depending on how one does the calculations. There are more options than you would think.

Start with how many Philadelphia voters came to the polls. The current count posted on the city commissioner’s web site, based on the voting machine cartridges from 95 percent of the city’s machines, is 84,072 voters in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Another 1,002 voted by absentee or alternative ballot, bringing the total to 85,074. Compare that to the number of registered Democrats and Republicans, 925,634, and you’ve got an overall turnout figure of 9.19 percent, about one out of every 11 voters registered in the two parties.

The turnout numbers look a little better if you consider only those voters considered “active” – those who have voted at least once in the last five years. The city counts 869,839 voters in this group, which would push overall turnout on Tuesday to 9.8 percent.

But a curious fact: while the machines counted 84,072 votes on Tuesday, almost 20,000 of them failed to vote in the biggest races on the ballot. For the Democrats, that was the state Superior Court race, where 58,403 machine votes were recorded, and for the Republicans, the nomination of Terrence Tracy Jr. as the GOP’s candidate for city controller, which got 6,390 votes. Add those two figures together, plus 1,002 absentee ballots that haven’t yet been worked into the counts, and you’ve got just 65,795 big-race voters, just 7.6 percent of the city’s active electorate and 7.1 percent of all registered voters.

But the machine results spit out by the city’s computers Tuesday night are likely close to 100 percent complete. Most of the gap results from missing cartridges from machines that were not used on Election Day.  Many polling places get multiple machines because of high voter volume in past elections, but if  voters can be accommodated on a single machine, the extra machines are never used.

And that makes Tuesday’s turnout look even lower than predicted – as one election official after another reported, the lowest they’ve ever seen.

On the Republican side, there were really no Philadelphia contests, so not much reason to vote unless there was a fight inside a division for an election-board spot as judge of elections or voting inspector. That said, the unofficial results show 6,390 Republican votes cast for the biggest GOP vote-getter, city controller candidate Terrence J. Tracy Jr.  With the city’s GOP registration at 120,276, that translates to a preliminary turnout figure of 5.31 percent – even with nothing to vote for.

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Bob Warner Inquirer Staff Writer
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