Brian Hamilton: Engaged electorate promising for top turnout goal
I couldn’t help but have my mind wander a bit Tuesday afternoon, while awaiting election results and working on our monthly newsroom report.
Monday night’s announcement by the Associated Press, less than 24 hours before the election, that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, certainly caught my attention and caused concern over the California primary. Based upon its survey of superdelegates — whose votes, Bernie Sanders says, should not be counted until they’re actually cast at the convention — the AP determined the Dem nomination was a done deal.
Understanding that such projections, by the AP and other media outlets through exit polling, are often right on the mark, I couldn’t help but be disappointed to read the outcome of Tuesday’s vote wouldn’t matter much when it comes to Clinton vs. Sanders. After all, it’s been quite awhile since Golden State voters were much of a factor in a presidential primary. And with a primary election record of nearly 18 million voters registered statewide, I couldn’t help but wonder how the AP’s projection would impact voter turnout — and, in particular, the popular vote totals among all primaries so far, which Clinton led Sanders by about 3 million votes heading into Tuesday.
And what about Nevada County?
Back home, there is a goal to post the top percentage turnout of registered voters among all California counties in this primary election. Although AP’s announcement might have left some of our 66,149 registered voters at home, it’s not likely to have made as much impact as in other counties, considering the interest in the local races on our ballots.
A good example of the engagement by our local electorate was obvious on these very pages over the past month. Since May 1, The Union published in its print edition 55 op-eds and 59 letters to the editor on the election, the vast majority discussing Measure W, Measure Y and our county supervisor races. And even with combined seven pages of opinions published last Friday and Saturday, several more contributions were left to be published online only at TheUnion.com.
That level of engagement, and the analytics we’ve seen on our online traffic, would suggest Nevada County voters were poised to turn out in big numbers.
Over the course of May, TheUnion.com drew 158,000 unique visitors — the highest monthly total so far into 2016 and the most since last July, when our coverage of the Lowell Fire helped bring more than 170,000 to the website. The election — and, of course, news of Alexander Rossi’s Indianapolis 500 victory — helped drive a 38.9 percent year-over-year increase of visitors to our site in the month of May.
Unique visitors is just one of the key metrics we track in gauging the success of our online efforts. May also saw our highest number of website visits (342,482) and page views (813,699) among the first five months of 2016. Whether a story written by a newsroom staff member or an op-ed submitted for the opinion pages, election-related content was well read at TheUnion.com — and certainly by the thousands of subscribers in our print edition each day.
Although final vote totals won’t be officially complete until the end of the canvassing period, such a level of engagement provides promise that Nevada County might just meet that goal of taking the title for top voter turnout in California.
And that’s certainly something, whether your candidate — or ballot measure — wins or loses this election cycle, in which we all would take great pride.
Editor Brian Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4249.
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