Correction: This mayoral runoff is not the city’s first. The Statesman has written a story looking at past runoffs. https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/election/article237132339.html
Although Tuesday’s election didn’t drive voters to the polls quite like last November — local government elections rarely do — more Treasure Valley residents than usual voted for mayors, city council candidates and propositions.
Voter turnout in Ada County hit 33.4%, and a total of 83,834 people voted absentee, voted early or voted on Election Day. Canyon County voters cast 14,504 ballots, but Canyon County Elections officials didn’t have solid voter turnout data by publication Wednesday.
More than 43,804 Boise residents voted on Election Day alone, according to data from the Ada County Elections website, contributing to an overall 40.1% voter turnout for Boise residents.
Boise State University political science professor Jaclyn Kettler told the Statesman on Wednesday the turnout in Ada County was much higher than usual, even for a mayoral race. Turnout in Ada County was only 17.8% in 2017, which did not feature a Boise mayoral race, but Kettler said this year’s turnout was still higher than 2015, which was 30.1%.
“At least in Boise, I think what made the difference is you had multiple candidates running really active campaigns involving a lot of get-out-the-vote efforts,” Kettler said.
Eager voters in Eagle and Star; less in Meridian
More people also turned out to vote in Eagle and Star, while Meridian voter turnout dipped lower than surrounding cities. Voter turnout in both Star and Eagle was about 42%, while only about 28% of registered Meridian voters cast ballots.
Kettler said Eagle and Star voters may have been mobilized by unhappiness with “the direction of the city” and the motivation to remove incumbents. In Eagle, voters ousted Mayor Stan Ridgeway in favor of Avimor-backed Jason Pierce, taking out two incumbent City Council members along the way.
Star Mayor Chad Bell — who presided over a controversial annexation and previously survived a recall attempt — also lost his seat to a challenger, Trevor A. Chadwick, who received 1,788 votes to Bell’s 616.
How does the Treasure Valley compare to other places?
Although it changes based on the election, Kettler said voters tend to turn out at higher rates in Ada County and the Treasure Valley compared to other localities in Idaho and across the country. This year’s turnout, in particular, was significant because Kettler said voter turnout for local elections is declining nationally.
“Whether that’s due to get-out-the-vote efforts, voter registration efforts, policy to make voting easier or just more interest ... those are some really interesting questions,” she said.
Turnout for a Bieter, McLean runoff
There will likely be far less people voting during the runoff election in December between Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and City Council President Lauren McLean. Kettler said voters are generally less likely to head to the polls for runoff elections, either because of diminished interest or timing issues, or their preferred candidate is no longer in the race.
Another factor that might influence voter turnout for a runoff? Dec. 3 is right after Thanksgiving, which may make it difficult for campaigns to mobilize voters just before the election.
Regardless, this is the first mayoral runoff race in Boise in decades, so there’s not much to compare it to.
“We’re in new territory,” Kettler said.