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The upcoming March 3 Preferential Primary will be closely watched by both Democrats and Republicans.

They won't be watching the candidates voters select as much as the number of voters casting ballots for those candidates.

The number of voters participating -- usually well below 20 percent of all voters registered to vote in both Benton and Washington Counties, suddenly skyrockets to almost doubling to around 40 percent when there is an active Presidential Primary race to be decided.

Betsy Harrell of Benton County and Becky Lewallen of Washington County answered or had staff members answer questions about the upcoming primary election on March 3.

Currently there are 150,086 registered voters in Benton County. There are 131,892 registered voters in Washington County.

A key statistic to be remembered when assessing the 2016 Primary Election Results in Arkansas -- President Donald J. Trump -- finished third in both Benton and Washington Counties on March 1, 2016.

Yes, that is correct. He finished third in both Benton and Washington Counties behind U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

I'll say that again in case you thought this was fake news -- Donald J. Trump finished third in primary election voting in Benton and Washington Counties on March 1, 2016.

So watching the number of voters does matter.

Going back to 2012, when the state's Primary was on May 22, 2012, the percentage of voters registered to vote was as follows:

Benton County -- in 2012 -- 26,656 voters went to the polls or about 24.97 percent of all registered voters.

Washington County -- in 2012 -- 20,620 voters cast their ballots or about 20.57 of those registered to vote.

In 2014, on May 20, 2014, an off-year for Presidential elections -- yet a year in which the state of Arkansas has a full slate of state-wide offices, Governor, Lt. Gov., Secretary of State, etc., the numbers of voters casting ballots still fell significantly.

Benton County -- in 2014 -- 23,454 voters went to the polls about 16.89 percent of those registered to vote.

Washington County -- in 2014 -- some 18,674 voters went to the polls or about 17.06 percent of those registered to vote.

In 2016 -- The last Presidential Primary Elections held on March 1, 2016 -- the numbers increased. This was also a Super Tuesday vote -- just like this year -- several states across the nation will vote on that same day.

Benton County -- in 2016 -- 53,496 voters went to the polls or 40.67 percent of those registered. By contrast later that November in 2016, a whopping 62.84 percent of all registered voters, or 97,738 votes were recorded in Benton County.

Focusing only on the Presidential candidates in the Benton County Preferential Primary back on March 1, 2016, here are some results to consider. In the GOP Primary, Rubio gathered in 12,890 votes or 30.34 percent; Cruz was second with 11,945 votes or 28.11 percent; and Trump collected 11,843 votes for 27.87 percent of the 42,720 votes that day in the GOP primary.

On the Benton County Democrat Preferential Primary ballot, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered in 5,661 votes for 54.02 percent to United States Senator Bernie Sanders' 4,714 votes or 44.98 percent of the 10,535 Democrat ballots in Benton County.

In Washington County, in 2016, Cruz, was first with 8,895 votes or 24.5 percent; second was Rubio with 8,736 votes for 24.1 percent and Trump was third with 7,972 with almost 23.4 percent.

On the Democrat ballot, Clinton was first with 9,119 votes or 51.3 percent; Sanders was second with 8,527 or 47.9 percent of the Democrat votes.

In another non-Presidential Primary Election held on March 2, 2018, the numbers in both Benton and Washington County declined.

Benton County saw only 18,523 voters or 12.12 percent of total registered voters at the polls. Washington County fared a little better percentage-wise with 13.93 percent of its voter base or 17,876 casting ballots in 2018.

So what will the turnout by the numbers be on March 3, 2020?

--MAYLON RICE IS A FORMER JOURNALIST WHO WORKED FOR SEVERAL NORTHWEST ARKANSAS PUBLICATIONS. HE CAN BE REACHED VIA EMAIL AT MAYLONTRICE@YAHOO.COM. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.

Editorial on 02/12/2020

Print Headline: Tuesday, March 3 Primary Numbers To Increase, County Clerks Say

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