Allen County voter turnout Tuesday was the highest for a municipal primary election since at least 2007.
The Allen County Election Board reported that nearly 14.4% of voters cast ballots. Turnout was only 9.8% in the 2015 municipal primary election, and it had not topped 14.3% in a municipal primary since reaching 21% in 1999.
By contrast, Allen County turnout was 36.4% in the 2016 presidential primary.
A shortage of competitive races has been blamed for lackluster interest in recent municipal primaries. But this year in Fort Wayne, Democrats had five contested races and Republican had four, including the high-profile battle for the GOP mayoral nomination between winner Tim Smith and City Councilman John Crawford.
“When you have contested races, you have more people show up to vote,” Purdue University Fort Wayne political scientist Andrew Downs said in a telephone interview.
“For people who want to fix our turnout problem, the way to do it is to get qualified candidates to run who are well-funded and well-organized, and they manage to turn out the voters,” Downs said.
County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said the Smith-Crawford race “was highly contested and very competitive. In addition to that, there were several council races that led to excitement and interest.”
Shine said competitive races “result in bringing people to the polls.”
In all, 26,624 of Allen County's 185,521 registered voters cast ballots, including 4,700 who voted early in person and 907 who voted absentee by paper ballots, according to the election board.
Neither party had a primary in Monroeville and Woodburn because of the absence of contested races, and only Republicans conducted primaries in Grabill, Leo-Cedarville and New Haven.
Turnout in nearby counties included DeKalb, 26.5%; Huntington, 24.9%; Kosciusko, 15.8%; Noble, 9.3%; and Steuben, 5.9%.