The canvass isn’t done and numbers still are being tallied, in Idaho as almost everywhere else in the country, but this much is clear: Voter turnout was up in last week’s general election compared to four years ago.
There are also other comparisons worth pointing out before we leave the details behind.
To begin, the most current estimate of Idaho votes - in the presidential race; it was lower (as usual) in some others - was 867,250 for this year. Four years ago, the total was 690,655 - an increase of 25.6 percent, considerably more than population increase would have accounted for. In this, Idaho generally was in line with the national trend.
You can also compare the vote received then and now by Republican Donald Trump: 409,055 in 2016, and 554,018 this year, an increase of 35.5 percent, which indicates he overperformed. That may be a reasonable way to look at it; but if you look at it as a matter of Republican support, a reasonable approach might be to enter in the votes cast in 2016 for Evan McMullin, an independent but generally Republican candidate; his share of the vote plus Trump’s was 65.9 percent, while the Trump vote (with no McMullin to contend with) was 63.9 percent this year.
A correspondent also pointed out a small change in the gap between Trump and his Democratic opponents, 31.7 percent last time, and 30.7 percent this time.
He also pointed out a few other subtle aspects to the presidential vote in Ada County, noting that Democrat Joe Biden “closed the gap in Ada County by a very significant margin: Trump won by 9.2% in 2016, and only 3.9% in 2020. The vote in Ada became more Democratic: 38.7% in 2016 and 46.4% in 2020. Biden also grew his vote more than Trump (and by a large margin). Statewide, Trump increased his vote by 34.1% and Biden by 51.2%. This was even more pronounced in Ada where Trump’s vote grew by 39.4% and Biden by 59%.”
This is a difference only at the margins, of course, and doesn’t provide a trajectory line away from a Republican Idaho win in 2024. Idaho has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1964; the end of that streak is not immediately in sight, and a political earthquake would be needed to upend that.
That doesn’t mean these numbers are irrelevant, though.
In Ada County, the presidential results in 2016 were Trump 47.9 percent and Democrat Hillary Clinton 38.7 percent; this year, that went to Trump 50.3 percent and Biden 46.4 percent; considering the absence of a McMullin factor, that shows more growth on the Democratic side.
One of the most notable Idaho contests this cycle - maybe the most notable - was the Ada County District 1 commission race between incumbent Democrat Diana Lachiondo and Republican Ryan Davidson; Davidson won, narrowly, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent. It was a close race, and the big increase in turnout doubtless had some effect on it.
But about this, my correspondent also suggests, “Lachiondo got more votes than Biden, and Davidson got less votes than Trump. 9,616 didn’t cast a vote in the race (but did vote for President). This exceeded the margin in the race. It looks to me that there were many new voters coming out for Biden, but they weren’t necessarily informed about down ballot races (or didn’t feel motivated to vote in local races).”
Of course, not everyone who failed to vote for commissioner but did vote for president would necessarily have voted Democratic.
But a close look at the voting does suggest some fluidity at the margins of Idaho’s voting patterns - not everywhere, but in some places, and notably in Ada County.
It’s not all carved in stone.