(CNSNews.com) - The number of ballots cast in Tuesday's New Hampshire Republican primary exceeded those in the Democratic primary by nearly 90,000 votes, according to preliminary data from the office of the New Hampshire Secretary of State.
With all but 2 percent of precincts reporting, 234,214 votes have been counted in the GOP primary, compared with 145,423 in the Democratic primary. But because of the way New Hampshire conducts its primary, it's difficult to accurately gauge party participation in the election.
Registered independent voters, formally referred to as 'undeclared' voters in New Hampshire, make up the largest group of registered voters in the state, numbering 274,927, or 37.23% of registered voters, according to the secretary of state. By comparison, there were 265,679 registered Republicans and 197,816 registered Democrats as of November 1999.
Complicating the analysis is the fact that undeclared voters may vote in either the GOP or Democratic primary, a statistic the state said was not calculated in Tuesday's balloting. Election officials in New Hampshire said full results aren't expected until Friday.
But participation in Tuesday's Republican primary exceeded that of 1996, the most recent year in which there was no incumbent seeking the Republican presidential nomination. 210,211 votes were cast in the GOP contest 4 years ago, when Pat Buchanan defeated Bob Dole by a 28% to 27% margin.
On the Democratic side, the preliminary results of the February 1 primary showed that total votes cast fell between the totals of the 1988 and 1992 primaries, the last two that did not have a Democratic incumbent president in the contest.
Michael Dukakis won 36% of the 125,344 votes cast in the 1988 Democratic primary, while Paul Tsongas won the 1992 primary, beating Bill Clinton by 8 percentage points with 170,333 votes cast.