With the arrival of the top-two primary, elections officials no longer provide a figure for primary election turnout by party, but because this year was a presidential year it is possible to make a pretty good estimate. That's because the presidential contest is not affected by the top-two primary, which means only Democrats (and the rare independent who requests a Democratic ballot) can vote in their party's presidential primary, and only Republicans can vote in theirs. Using the presidential primary voting data produces an estimate that reveals -- no surprise here -- that Democratic voters are not nearly as likely to participate in primary elections than Republicans.
Based on results tabulated so far in Ventura County, 40,644 ballots were cast in the Democratic presidential primary, while 48,603 were cast in the Republican presidential primary. If all partisan voters cast a ballot for president last week (and it was the first item on the ballot), that would mean a Republican turnout of 32.2 percent and a Democratic turnout of 25.8 percent.
Put another way, it would mean that Republican voters accounted for 44.1 percent of the county electorate, while Democrats accounted for 36.9 percent. So, even though Democrats hold a 1.6 percentage-point advantage in registered voters in the county, on Tuesday Republicans held a 7.2 percentage-point advantage in actual voters.
Historically, that turnout gap has always been narrowed in general elections, especially in presidential years. Democrats will have to hope -- and work at it -- to make sure that happens again. Otherwise, those new districts that inspired so much hope among them will produce pretty much the same result as the old districts: Republican domination in the county's partisan elected offices.
And what about the theory that the top-two primary would inspire greater participation by independents, who largely stayed at home during previous party primaries? Only 21.3 percent of voters last Tuesday did not cast a presidential primary ballot -- meaning that turnout among independents was even more depressed than that of Democrats.