UPDATED 11/9/18 – As of 9 am Friday, the US Elections Project shows 2018 turnout at 48.5%, just shy of the 48.7% midterm turnout in 1966. If the final count exceeds the 1966 record, we would need to go back to 1914, over 100 years ago, to find a higher midterm turnout.
The year was 1966. The Vietnam War was raging, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were alive, and the ink was still drying on the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. It’s also the last time that midterm voter turnout hit the 48% mark.
As the dust settles from yesterday’s historic midterm elections, one fact is becoming increasingly clear: Voter turnout was high – very high!
TIME reports that a combined 114 million votes were cast in yesterday’s US House Races, a nearly 40% jump over the 83 million votes cast in the 2014 midterms. As of 9 am Friday, the U.S. Elections Project is showing 114.2 million votes cast. These are preliminary numbers and it will be a while before we have final, certified counts, but we are looking at roughly 48% of the voting eligible population turning out to vote, marking the biggest midterm turnout since at least 1966, just over 50 years ago!
Historically, voter turnout declined after ratification of the 26th Amendment in 1971 which gave 18 to 20 year-olds the right to vote. Those new voters both expanded the voting eligible population but also pulled the overall turnout average down. And that average stayed down – at least until yesterday. Early analysis from CIRCLE documents a strong spike in youth turnout, which among other factors, likely contributed to yesterday’s overall turnout number.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall. Just last month ago on September 25, National Voter Registration shattered records with over 853,000 new or updated voter registrations collected – even besting voter registration numbers for 2016! States around the country were reporting record numbers of registered voters ahead of the election. Even early voting numbers were way up.
Then it happened – Americans turned out to vote in droves!
We’ve said it before, but it warrants saying again – our democracy works best when more people participate and vote. Whatever the outcomes of yesterday’s election, voter turnout was high, and that is something worth celebrating.