States With the Highest (and Lowest) Voter Turnout

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Telluride, Colorado
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11. Colorado
> Voter turnout: 66.6%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 39.2%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 45.7%

Voter turnout has increased in every presidential election in Colorado, from 57.2% participation in 2000 to 70.4% participation in the 2012 election. Of the last four elections, an average of 66.6% of eligible voters made it to the polls, a larger share than in the vast majority of states. Voter preferences in Colorado tend to match those of the country as a whole as the state went to Bush in 2000 and 2004 and to Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Last August, after the Republican Party officially ruled that state delegates must support the candidate that wins the caucus vote, Colorado forfeited its role in selecting the GOP’s presidential candidate. States that hold caucuses tend to have higher voter turnouts in general elections, and since it opted entirely out of the nomination process, Colorado’s participation rate may take a hit in 2016.

Dover, Delaware
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12. Delaware
> Voter turnout: 66.6%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 30.9%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 53.1%

Since 2000, an increasingly large share of Delaware residents has gone to the polls than the U.S. has as a whole. Delaware also surpasses the nation in other measures typically associated with higher voter turnout. Wealthy, well-educated citizens are more likely to turn up at the polls on election day, and the $59,716 median household income and 30.6% collegiate attainment rate in the state are both higher than their corresponding national figures.

Delaware is a consistently blue state, and a Democrat has won there in the last four presidential elections. Of those elections, a Democrat won by the largest margin in 2008, when Obama beat Romney by 25.0% of the vote.

St. Louis, Missouri 3
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13. Missouri
> Voter turnout: 66.2%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 27.8%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 53.5%

Averaged over the last four presidential elections, voter turnout in Missouri has been higher than the national voter turnout and among the highest of any state. Since 2004, however, that margin has narrowed. In the 2012 election, 63.9% of eligible state voters cast a ballot, just about 2 percentage points higher than the 61.8% national turnout rate.

Missouri is a traditionally Republican state, and a Republican candidate has won the state in the last four presidential elections. In the two elections where a Democrat won the national election, voter turnout in Missouri was the lowest.

Helena, Montana
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14. Montana
> Voter turnout: 66.2%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 30.6%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 58.7%

A traditionally red state, a Republican candidate has won Montana in the past four presidential elections. The state was won by a large margin in every year with the exception of 2008, when McCain beat Obama by just 2.4% of the vote.

Average voter turnout over the last four presidential elections was 66.2% in Montana, a larger share than most other states. Montana voters are also more likely to vote in midterm elections than most Americans. Voter participation in all non-presidential elections since 1998 exceeded 50% in Montana. Meanwhile, over the same time period, nationwide turnout never exceeded 50% during midterm elections, reaching the lowest point in 2014 when only 41.9% of eligible Americans made it to the polls.

Detroit, Michigan
Source: Thinkstock

15. Michigan
> Voter turnout: 66.1%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 27.8%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 60.2%

A Democratic candidate has won the majority vote in Michigan in the last four presidential elections. Michigan’s voter turnout has consistently been greater than the national overall turnout. Turnout amongst the state’s black voters peaked in 2008, when Obama won both the state and the national election.

Michigan was one of the states hit hardest by the recession, and in 2010 the unemployment rate had reached an abysmal 12.6%. In the midterm election that year, voter turnout among the state’s unemployed workers was the lowest it has been for at least 10 years.