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Yesterday's low voter turnout part of trend

Yesterday's general election in Philadelphia could shape up to be notable in one regard: voter turnout.

And not in a good way.

Unofficially, only 11.3 percent of the city's 1.1 million registered voters bothered to show at the polls, which, if it stands, would make it the lowest turnout in at least 20 years, if not the least in modern city history, for a general election.

Typically, fewer city residents turn out in an election year such as 2013 when the district attorney and controller are the top races, along with judges. District Attorney Seth Williams and City Controller Alan Butkovitz were easily re-elected yesterday in the city where democrats outnumber registered republicans 6 to 1.

But the voter turnout trend worsens each time, according to figures supplied by Philadelphia's Board of Elections. Just 21 years ago, in a similar general election, 26 percent of voters showed up at the polls.  Yesterday would represent a 14.7 percentage point slide from 1992.

Obviously, some attorney general races in the past drew more interest, which would prod more voters.   And, as Bob Warner notes today in the Inquirer's Heard in the Hall blog, voter apathy figures could be overstated.

Still, the numbers are telling.

"I don't know why – voter apathy maybe?" wondered Tim Dowling, acting supervisor of elections. "With everything going on around this country, maybe people are thinking government is not working for them."

A look at the following numbers indicate the trend in off-year general elections:

Year      Percent voted

1992           26.0

1997           22.4

2001           19.1

2005           13.4

2009           12.5

2013           11.3