States With the Highest (and Lowest) Voter Turnout

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Athens, Georgia
Source: Thinkstock

41. Georgia
> Voter turnout: 59.3%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 29.9%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 48.4%

An average of only 59.3% of eligible voters in Georgia turned out to vote in the past four presidential elections, and more than half of voters preferred the Republican presidential candidate every time. Georgia has not always gone to the conservative candidate, however. Bill Clinton beat Bush, the incumbent candidate, in the the Peach State in 1992.

While voter turnout in Georgia is relatively low in presidential elections, as in every other state, an even smaller share of eligible voters turnout for midterm elections. The lowest participation rate in the last 18 years was in the 1998 midterms, when only 38.6% of the electorate made it to the polls.

New York City, New York
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42. New York
> Voter turnout: 59.2%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 35.0%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 43.8%

An average of just 59.2% of eligible New York voters have gone to the polls in the past four presidential elections, one of the lower turnout rates in the country. With the Democratic candidate winning New York State in each of the last four elections by a margin of no less than 18.3 percentage points, New York is reliably a blue state.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast and ultimately became the second costliest storm in U.S. history. In the election that followed a week later, a relatively large share of New Yorkers who did not vote cited bad weather as their reason for not voting. The only state to ever report a larger share of potential voters deterred by bad weather in the last four elections was neighboring New Jersey, also in 2012.

Phoenix, Arizona 3
Source: Thinkstock

43. Arizona
> Voter turnout: 58.4%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 27.7%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 55.0%

With the exception of Clinton in 1996, a majority of Arizona voters have preferred the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1952. In the last four presidential elections, voters in the state preferred the Republican nominee over the Democratic candidate by at least 6.3 percentage points.

Voter turnout among younger residents has improved in both Arizona and the country overall since 2000. In the Bush Gore election, just 25.6% of eligible 18 to 24 year olds in Arizona went to the polls. In the most recent election, that figure was 43.0%. Nationally, youth voter turnout in presidential elections has increased from 36.1% in 2000 to 41.2% in 2012.

Automobile Alley Oklahoma City
Source: Wikimedia Commons

44. Oklahoma
> Voter turnout: 58.3%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 24.6%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 54.8%

Since a majority vote for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Oklahoma has had an uninterrupted history of voting for the Republican presidential candidate. In the last four elections, a Republican won the state with at least 60% of the votes.

Educational attainment is one of the strongest predictors of voter participation. Just 24.2% of Oklahoma adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than the 30.1% of adults nationwide. Perhaps as a result, Oklahoma’s voter turnout is only 58.3%, the seventh lowest in the country.

Las Vegas Strip at night - high vantage, Nevada
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45. Nevada
> Voter turnout: 57.7%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 23.6%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 59.7%

Nevada has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the United States with just 57.7% of voting-age citizens going to the polls on average over the past four presidential elections. As is the case nationwide, participation in the state is even worse during non-presidential elections. During the 2014 midterm election, just 37.3% of eligible Nevadans voted, one of the lower shares that year and among the lowest of any state during a midterm or presidential election in the past 20 years.

Education often leads to higher political involvement, and those with bachelor’s degrees are significantly more likely to vote than those with less education. Only 23.1% of Nevada’s adult population have graduated from college compared to 30.1% of all U.S. adults.