While absentee ballots are still being counted, the votes cast so far indicate yesterday’s Democratic primary brought voter turnout to new lows. If Muriel Bowser indeed goes on to become the District’s next mayor, she will do so after being coronated by a sliver of the city she hopes to govern.
Bowser’s low vote total may have further implications. Because Democrats make up more than three-quarters of DC’s registered voters, the Democratic primary usually serves as the effective contest for mayor. But with Bowser likely to face off against independent Council member David Catania, the first viable general-election challenger in decades, her flimsy vote total makes her look even less like a sure thing.
The chart above shows voter registration, Democratic Party membership, participation in yesterday’s primary, and votes received by Bowser as a percentage of the District’s population. The people who voted for Bowser represent just 5.5 percent of the people who call this city home.
In 2010, 72,648 voted for Vince Gray to replace Adrian Fenty in a contest that drew the participation of 40 percent of the city’s 336,312 registered Democrats. Gray’s share of the vote represented about 12.1 percent of the city’s population then of 601,000.
The shares of people who choose DC’s mayor have always been slim, but if history holds up and Bowser coasts from the Democratic nomination to a general election win, it will be with the support of only one out of nearly every 20 people.