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MERCER: Why silence isn't golden in elections

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PIERRE -- There is only one thing to be said if you voted in South Dakota's primary elections: Thank you. There weren't very many of you.

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Republicans had 236,689 people registered for the June 3 elections and 75,497 of them actually voted.

Democrats and independents had a combined 272,254 people registered (Democrats allow independents to vote in their primaries) and 30,366 of them actually voted.

Those are turnouts of 31.9 percent for Republicans and 11.15 percent combined for Democrats and independents.

There wasn't much at stake, of course: Only the Republican and Democratic nominations for governor; the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat; and oodles of nominations in both parties for the Legislature and county courthouse offices.

The 10-point victory by state Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton over Joe Lowe of Piedmont in the Democratic primary for governor came down to turnout.

But even in her home region, Democratic turnout wasn't spectacular. Marshall County was 39 percent. Day was 35.9; Roberts 30.6; and Brown only 13.9.

Those four counties provided Wismer with a 2,000-vote margin over Lowe. She won by about 3,000 votes.

Lowe suffered from unrealized expectations for turnout in reservation areas.

He finished on top in less than half of the dozen key counties in Indian Country. Lowe won 140-131 in Dewey; 44-40 in Jackson; 139-131 in Moody; and 204-174 in Todd.

Wismer meanwhile won 323-279 in Charles Mix; 121-118 in Shannon; 115-87 in Mellette; 184-183 in Brule; 64-59 in Buffalo; 114-64 in Corson; and 16-15 in Jones.

They tied 36-36 in Bennett County.

The U.S. Senate campaign for former Gov. Mike Rounds used turnout in his home region around Pierre to great advantage.

He won the Republican nomination with 55.54 percent. In his home ground of Hughes County, he received 68.81 percent. In neighboring Stanley County, where he actually lives now, he received 66.36.

In Sully County to the north, he got 64.24. And in Hyde County to the east, he took 55.92.

Republican turnout in Hughes was 53.13 percent, well above the state average for Republicans. Republican turnout in Stanley was 54.19; Sully 64.61; and Hyde 51.20.

Republican turnout also exceeded 50 percent in several other counties within the broader Rounds home area, such as Lyman and Potter, and in Walworth, Hand and McPherson as well.

Rounds took 50 percent or more of the vote in all of those counties, including a whopping 73.44 percent in McPherson.

In some legislative and county races, small turnout was the story.

Shawn Bordeaux won the District 26A House seat over Joshua Wilson 360-263. They are both Democrats from the Mission area. No other candidates filed.

Rep. Dean Schrempp of Lantry won re-election to the District 28A House seat over former Rep. Tom Van Norman of Eagle Butte 377-206. They are both Democrats. No other candidates filed.

Shannon County, where Democratic and independent turnout was 3.45 percent, elected two county commissioners in primaries.

Art Hopkins of Kyle defeated Bryan Kehn of Batesland 32-13. Arlin Whirlwindhorse of Kyle edged Eugenio White Hawk of Manderson 31-26. They are Democrats. No other candidates filed.

They are proof: Every vote -- and candidate -- matters.

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Bob Mercer
Bob Mercer reports from the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre for The Daily Republic and other newspapers around the state.
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