News & Politics

Lackluster Turnout at Tuesday’s Democratic Primary

Predictions of low voter participation so far seem to be accurate.

Jack Evans greets a few voters in Dupont. Photographs by Benjamin Freed.

The predictions of low turnout seem to be proving out in the Democratic primary. At his Georgetown polling place, said candidate Jack Evans, he was the sole voter when he cast his ballot (presumably for himself) this morning. And the scene was only a bit more lifelike at St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church near Dupont Circle when Evans arrived to greet voters on their way in. A “few dozen” people had come through by 8:30 AM, according to the precinct captain.

“We’re looking good in [Ward] 2,” said Evans from his post outside, noting that it was his fourth stop out of 50 or 60 planned for the day.

Evans, Vince Gray, and Muriel Bowser made it a point to vote when polls opened at 7, but Tommy Wells didn’t vote until about 9:45, at Eastern Market. Eastern Market is a bit more hopping than the other polling places, with supporters of Wells, Gray, Bowser, and Andy Shallal greeting voters, but it’s still pretty empty. Shortly before 10, 287 people had cast ballots there, including Wells, who voted for his former chief-of-staff, Charles Allen, to succeed him as the Ward 6 representative, and for a reformer plank to take over the DC Democratic State Committee.

“I think part of it is because the Council did its best to depress turnout,” Wells said, noting that he failed multiple times to move the primary to the second week of June.

Tommy Wells casting his ballot in Eastern Market.

The most aggressive campaigner outside Eastern Market was Josh Hart, a Ward 6 resident running on the “The Rent Is Too Darn High” plank for the Democratic State Committee, the 63-member body that runs the local party. Hart and other critics of the current committee say members don’t make themselves transparent and focus more on getting tickets to presidential nominating conventions than local campaign ethics.

“It’s more the lack of doing anything,” Hart said. “We need to focus on DC issues, as well. I didn’t do this because I wanted a ticket to the Democratic National Convention.”

A few minutes after Wells departed, Bowser rolled up to Eastern Market, her sixth or seventh stop since she started campaigning at 5 AM. Bowser’s supporters planted Muriel for Mayor signs to block out as much of Wells’s signage as possible. Bowser dismissed the expectation that this will be a very low-participation primary.

“I think the turnout is going to be a lot of Bowser voters,” she said.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.