Idaho Reports analysis: Jordan results show GOP benefitted from record turnout

By Logan Finney, Idaho Reports

Note: 2020 election results used in this analysis are unofficial. State law requires that results be canvassed and certified by counties within 10 days of the general election (Nov. 13) and by the state within 15 days (Nov. 18).

The 2020 general election saw remarkably high turnout in Idaho, with over 1 million registered voters in the state for the first time. Final numbers are a moving target until election day registrations are tallied and votes are canvassed and certified, but the Secretary of State’s office estimates that roughly 870,000 ballots were cast this year with turnout at about 85 percent of registered voters.

For comparison, the highest general election turnouts in the last 40 years were 80.46 percent in 1992; 77.3 percent in 2008; 76.79 percent in 2004; and 76.77 percent in 1980.

Democratic candidate Paulette Jordan has competed in statewide elections two cycles in a row. Comparing the results between her runs for governor in 2018 and for U.S. Senate in 2020 reveals that while Jordan earned additional votes in nearly every county this year, she received a smaller percentage of the total votes cast.

That points to increased voter turnout across the state generally benefitting Republican candidates.

Paulette Jordan and Brad Little in The Idaho Debates, October 2018

Jordan earned more individual votes this election than in 2018 in every county but Camas (-1 vote) and Clark (-5 votes). Even with those gains, she received a smaller share of total votes in every county but Adams (a distant outlier).

Individual votesShare of total
Statewide+24%-4.9%
Ada County+25%-3.7%
Bonner County+20%-6.4%
Jerome County+37%-1.3%
Shoshone County+8%-8.3%

Even in the counties with the largest individual vote gains for Jordan, she still received a smaller percentage of the total votes cast.

County2018 Governor2020 SenateIndividual votesShare of total
Madison1,5202,288+51%-3.8%
Franklin416585+41%-2.1%
Jerome1,4401,978+37%-1.3%
Cassia1,1111,508+36%-2.3%
Minidoka1,1791,587+35%-2.9%

In the counties where Jordan won her largest percentages in the Senate race against Jim Risch, she was not able to improve on results from the governor race against Brad Little.

County2018 Governor2020 SenateChange
Blaine69.3%65.68%-3.62
Teton54.9%51.52%-3.38
Latah56.1%50.30%-5.80
Ada49.7%46.01%-3.69
Valley47.0%42.41%-4.59

While Democrats may have made inroads with individual Idaho voters this election cycle, it was not enough to combat Republican enthusiasm in the deeply red state during a record-breaking presidential year.

As Idaho Reports has covered in previous blog posts this week, Republicans flipped two seats in the Idaho House and Democrat David Nelson narrowly defended his seat in the Idaho Senate.

Watch this week’s episode of Idaho Reports for more information on turnout with Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck.

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