Presidential Primary Attracts New Voters

By Beacon Staff

As the prolonged primary race drags on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, it’s been easy to become a bit disenchanted with the whole ordeal and find oneself simply wishing that a winner – any winner – would emerge. But, as people continue to debate whether the primary marathon is the best thing for the Democratic Party or the future cause of its downfall, a recent Missoulian article reminded me of at least one, very clear positive to the extended race.

“Voter registration and requests for absentee ballots are soaring this spring in most of Montana’s most populous counties,” the article says. And state election administrators are attributing “the surge to the heavy interest in the prolonged battle for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

In Yellowstone County, the number of registered voters has jumped from 85,500 during the last presidential election year to almost 94,500. More than 60,000 people are registered so far this year in Gallatin County, where only slightly more than 13,000 voted in the 2004 primary. In Missoula County, 73,487 have registered to vote so far, including 8,363 submitting requests for absentee ballots.

Flathead County’s seen less of a jump than some of its Montana counterparts, but is still showing increases: its election rolls had nearly 55,000 active and inactive voters as of May 5.

And Montana’s not alone. From Oregon to Hawaii, thousands of voters have signed up at the last minute to vote in primaries. And different demographics with historically low voter turnout, including Blacks and the young voters, are showing up throughout the country in increased numbers, too.

Granted registering to vote and actually voting are two different things, but it’s pretty exciting to see the public interested – no matter who you plan on voting for come election day. It’s the best evidence I can think of that people are really interested in this election, and that, no matter how endless the Democratic primary may seem, it is worth the ongoing indecision.

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