Special Report

States With the Highest (and Lowest) Voter Turnout

Portland, Oregon 2
Source: Thinkstock

6. Oregon
> Voter turnout: 69.1%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 32.2%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 54.7%

Presidential elections tends to yield a significantly higher voter turnout than midterms. Nationally, voter turnout gets a 16 percentage point bump during presidential elections. In Oregon, a higher share of residents vote during midterm elections than the voter turnout in many states during presidential election years. In the 2006 midterm election, nearly 60% of Oregon’s eligible voters went to the polls, more than eight states’ turnouts during the 2004 presidential election. During that election, 74% of Oregon’s electorate went to the polls, more than all but three other states.

North Dakota (farm, tractor)
Source: Thinkstock

7. North Dakota
> Voter turnout: 68.3%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 29.1%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 55.1%

In the last four presidential elections, political engagement in North Dakota has been relatively high, averaging 68.3% participation among eligible voters. However, since 2004 when voter turnout peaked at 71.4%, participation has declined in each election cycle in North Dakota. In November 2012, only 63.9% of eligible voters made it to the polls.
A solidly conservative state, North Dakota preferred the Republican candidate in each of the last four presidential elections. Most recently, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama in North Dakota by nearly 20 percentage points.

George Washington Statue, Boston, Massachusetts
Source: Thinkstock

8. Massachusetts
> Voter turnout: 68.1%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 41.5%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 48.7%

Highly educated individuals are among the most likely to vote in U.S. elections. The relatively well-educated Massachusetts population may partially explain the high voter turnout in the state. An estimated 41.2% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well above the national college attainment rate of 30.1%. Massachusetts is also widely considered a Democratic stronghold, supporting the Democratic presidential candidate by a large margin in each of the past four elections.

Jackson Mississippi Skyline
Source: Thinkstock

9. Mississippi
> Voter turnout: 67.2%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 20.8%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 61.0%

Voter turnout in Mississippi has increased in each presidential election since George W. Bush took office roughly a decade and a half ago. In 2000, only 60.6% of eligible voters in Mississippi cast a ballot, a considerably smaller share than the 74.5% that made it to the polls in November 2012.

As is the case in every other state, voter turnout dips considerably in Mississippi in non-presidential election years. In November 2014, only 42.3% of eligible voters made it to the polls. Of those who did not vote that year, 22.3% said they were too busy, and 13.2% claimed they simply forgot.

Aerial view of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana
Source: Thinkstock

10. Louisiana
> Voter turnout: 66.7%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 23.2%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 54.0%

Individuals who live in poverty are far less likely to vote than more affluent individuals. In Louisiana, nearly one in five residents lives in poverty, the third highest poverty rate in the country. Unlike most other states with relatively high poverty rates, however, more than two-thirds of eligible Louisianans vote in presidential elections, one of the higher voter turnout rates compared to other states.

Louisiana had an exceptionally strong turnout among low-income voters in the 2012 presidential election. Some 71.3% of eligible individuals earning between $13,000 and $26,000 annually voted, more than the 61.8% voter turnout nationwide among all income groups. To compare only 52.6% of Americans earning such low incomes voted in 2012.