The following is an extract from the 2018 America Goes to the Polls report. Click here to download the entire report.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

HISTORIC MIDTERM VOTER TURNOUT

The 2018 midterm was a national referendum on the Trump presidency as voters on both sides of the aisle surged to the polls in record numbers.

  • The midterm voter turnout, at 50.3% nationwide, was the highest it has been in over one hundred years, since 1914.
  • Every state except Alaska and Louisiana saw an increase in midterm turnout over 2014.
  • Overall, turnout saw its largest increase over a prior midterm in U.S. history.

ELECTION POLICIES DRIVE LARGE TURNOUT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE STATES

Despite the nationwide surge, vast turnout differences between states remain. Election policies that made it harder or easier to vote were a major factor in those turnout differences, even more than political competition.

Same Day Registration

  • Seven of the top ten states with the highest turnout offer Same Day Registration (SDR).
  • In contrast, eight of the bottom ten states in turnout cut off voter registration four weeks before the election.
  • States with SDR policies had turnout rates seven  percentage points higher than non-SDR states

Vote at Home

  • Three of the four Vote at Home States – Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – ranked in the top ten in turnout. These states send all registered voters their ballot two or more weeks in advance and provide secure and convenient options to return it.
  • Utah, the fourth and newest state to implement Vote at Home statewide, led the nation in voter turnout growth over 2014.

Automatic Voter Registration

  • Since 2016, 17 states and the District of Columbia have enacted automatic voter registration policies.
  • The five states* that reported their AVR registration data saw their state’s list of registered voters increase on average four times more over 2014 than the 22 states without AVR or SDR policy.

ELECTORAL COMPETITION HIGHER, BUT LESS A FACTOR IN OVERALL STATE TURNOUT

  • In contrast to most elections, voter turnout in states with the most competitive statewide elections for U.S. Senate or Governor was on average no different than turnout in states without a competitive statewide contest.
  • The number of House seats that were competitive more than doubled from 33 in 2016 to 89 seats in 2018. Still only one in five House seats were competitive and the majority of House races were uncontested or won by landslide margins of 20 percentage points or more.

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* Alaska, California, Georgia, Oregon, and Vermont