HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama’s primary runoff elections are less than a week away, but it is unclear how many of the 3.6 million registered voters in Alabama will take part. 

The primary election on May 24 saw lower than expected voter turnout. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill had projected turnout would be between 28 and 32 percent, but the actual figure was 23 percent.

For next Tuesday’s runoff, the Alabama Secretary of State is projecting turnout between 10 and 15 percent.

Runoff turnout numbers are consistently lower than primaries. Runoffs mean a shorter ballot, generally with far fewer candidates, and in Alabama the last three primary runoffs have taken place in the summer.

In this case, if that pattern holds, it means a small percentage of the state’s electorate will decide the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate – either Katie Britt or Mo Brooks – and the Republican nominee for North Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. That race is between Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and former Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski.

It also means a small percentage of voters will pick the Democrats’ nominee for Governor in the runoff between Yolanda Flowers and Malika Sanders-Fortier.

News 19 Political Analyst Jess Brown said the small percentage of voters deciding major races is a problem.

“Schoolchildren talk about majority rule,” Brown said. “When turnout is this low, majority rule becomes an abstraction, it’s a myth.”

Primary and runoff turnout in Alabama:

  • In 2018, 26 percent of voters took part in the primary, but that fell to 11.5 percent for the runoff.
  • In 2020, 33 percent turned out for the primary — but just 17 percent of voters cast ballots for the runoff.
  • In 2022 — 23 percent voted in the primary, while the Secretary of State’s office is projecting turnout between 10 and 15 percent.

That’s 10-15 percent of 3.6 million Alabama voters.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday.