(NEWS CENTER) -- It appears voter turnout is going to be low even for a primary.
The Secretary of State's office is expecting turnout to be 14-20% for this primary. Primary turnout is typically much lower than turnout in the general election, but in 2010, for instance, turnout was 32% for the open governor's seat.
Party leaders say this time around there are a lot of candidates on the ballot, and since Senator Olympia Snowe announced she wasn't running for re-election relatively late, those candidates haven't had a lot of time to get their message out or raise money.
Democratic Party Chair Ben Grant says sometimes primaries can be a measure of enthusiasm for candidates and his party will be watching turnout in some key state senate races.
Mostly, though, both parties believe that the activist base of voters who are showing up Tuesday will be a small fraction of those who come out for the general election in a Presidential year. Enthusiasm for the US Senate candidates will not be a big issue.
Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster said, "We'll have a record turnout, I believe, in Maine because of Obama. There's a tremendous dislike of Obama."
Grant said, meanwhile, the idea is to get people who are just showing up to vote for President to also consider candidates further down the ticket. "There's a lot more focus on persuasion," Grant said. "The presidential race drives turnout. A lot of voters only come out every 4 years, so we have to make sure we have our message down pat, and we've got people persuaded."
In 1996, the last time we had an open US Senate seat in a Presidential election year, primary turnout was 20%. 68% of voters came out for the general election, and Senator Susan Collins won the Senate seat.