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Where Are the Rural Voters on Super Tuesday?

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An attendee listens as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at the North Carolina Democratic Party's Blue NC Celebration, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

Rural voters will be a bit underrepresented in Tuesday’s multi-state contest, thanks to some major cities like Los Angeles and Dallas. But eight of the 14 states voting Tuesday have an above average number of rural registered voters.

Super Tuesday’s primaries include the two states with the nation’s largest percentage of rural residents. But overall, rural voters will be a bit underrepresented in the contest March 3.

Maine and Vermont, which are part of Tuesday’s primary races, are extraordinarily rural by national standards.  About two-thirds of each state’s voters live in nonmetropolitan counties. That’s more than four times the national rate of 15 percent. (We don’t have Maine registered voters for the chart above; 2016 turnout was about two-thirds nonmetro.)

Blue portions of the bars show the percentage of registered voters residing in metropolitan counties. Red shows voters in nonmetropolitan counties. The raw number of registered voters in each state is listed above each bar. Maine registered voters were not available. Graph: Daily Yonder graphic based on data from Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections

But Maine and Vermont make up only about 5 percent of people who could vote on Tuesday. Combined, they have about 3.6 million registered voters.

California alone has nearly 20 million registered voters. And only 2 percent of those voters live in nonmetropolitan counties, according to David Leip’s election atlas.

Besides Vermont and Maine, Super Tuesday states with above-average numbers of rural voters are Alabama, 24 percent; Arkansas, 37 percent; Minnesota, 22 percent; North Carolina, 22 percent; Oklahoma, 34 percent; and Tennessee, 22 percent.

If anything, Super Tuesday voters will skew toward the central counties of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Look at the cities in Super Tuesday states, and it’s easy to see why. 

Half of the nation’s 10 largest metros will be voting: Los Angeles, Dallas-Forth Worth, Houston, Atlanta, and Boston. The Virginia portion of the Washington, D.C., metro (also in the top 10) will also be voting.

Major Metro: metros of more than 1 million residents. Medium Metro: 250,000 to 1 million residents. Small Metro, 50,000 to 249,999 residents. Nonmetro Adjacent: outside but adjacent to a metro. Nonmetro Nonadjacent: not adjoining a metro area. Graph: Daily Yonder graphic based on Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections

That’s not to say rural voters won’t have an impact. It’s the Democratic primary that matters this year, since President Donald Trump faces no serious opposition. In a large Democratic field, smaller margins will matter. And that’s exactly when blocs of voters like the rural electorate could make a difference. We’ll soon see.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.