A new report says that, if the first 25 statewide primaries for U.S. Senate and/or state governor are any guide, the nation is likely to witness the lowest midterm primary turnout in history.
The report, published by the nonprofit Center for the Study of the American Electorate, also indicates the upcoming election will realize the greatest number of states setting records for low voter turnout.
The aggregate national turnout figures in the report are based on the average turnout of all the states that held primaries in any given midterm election.
Here are a few of the points made in the report:
- National turnout for the 25 states that held state-wide primaries for both major parties reported a decline of 3.5 percentage points or 18 percent from the turnout in 2010. The national percentage of eligible citizens who voted in these primaries was 14.8 percent, down from 18.3 percent in 2010.
- Turnout in 15 of the 25 states that held state-wide primaries reached historic lows. Only three of those 25 states had greater turnout in 2014 than in 2010.
- Republican turnout at 8.2 percent dropped 1.4 percentage points or 15 percent from its 2010 level of 9.6 percent of the age-eligible citizens. But GOP turnout was only slightly off its 13 midterm election average of 8.9 percent.
And that’s not all. The report also found that:
- Overall turnout, the turnout in both Democratic and Republican primaries combined was 17.1 percentage points or 54 percent lower that the most recent high of 31.9 percent of age-eligible citizens voting in 1966.
- Democratic turnout was 14.5 percentage points or 70 percent lower than their most recent high of 20.9 percent of eligibles voting in 1970.
- Republican turnout was down five percentage points or 38 percent from its high water mark of 13.2 percent of eligibles voting in 1966.
- There were only three states – West Virginia, Nebraska and North Carolina – of the 22 which held statewide primaries in both parties and had comparable elections that had higher turnout in 2014 than in 2010. Democratic turnout as compared to 2010 was higher four states. Republican turnout was higher in six of the 22 states.
- Both overall turnout and Democratic turnout reached record lows in 15 of the 25 states that had statewide primaries. The GOP recorded record lows in three states – Maine, Nevada and Pennsylvania – but also recorded record high turnout in four states – Arkansas, Mississippi (in the senatorial runoff), Montana and Oklahoma.
Another finding? That of the four states with election-day registration, all had lower turnout i 2014 than in 2010.
Of the states that have all-mail voting in elections, Oregon had a record-low turnout in its statewide primary, and Colorado reported turnout lower than in 2010. In California, where 69 percent of the eligible electorate voted by mail and that has been experimenting with a “top two” primary system in which the two top vote-getters in a primary regardless of party affiliation move on to the general election, turnout was the lowest ever.
Eleven states had early in-person voting where citizens could go to polling places set up to facilitate in-person voting for a given number of days prior to election day. Of these, three had higher turnout, eight had lower turnout and six had record-low turnouts.
Thirteen states have adopted no-excuse absentee voting whereby citizens, without stating a reason, can request to vote absentee, be sent a ballot a given number of days before an election and cast that ballot by mail. Of those states two had higher turnout, 11 had lower turnout and 11 set new low turnout records.
Eight states conduct their elections with both early voting and no excuse absentee balloting. Of these, two had higher turnout, six had lower turnout and six set new low turnout records.
There were four states that adopted none of these reforms – Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama and Pennsylvania. All had lower turnout. Only one, Alabama, set a record for low turnout.
Want to see the whole report? Click here.