Special Report

States With the Highest (and Lowest) Voter Turnout

Providence-Warwick, Rhode Island
Source: Thinkstock

21. Rhode Island
> Voter turnout: 64.4%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 32.7%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 59.8%

While an average of 62.2% of eligible Americans voted in the past four presidential elections, 64.4% of eligible Rhode Islanders made it to the polls. A solid blue state, Rhode Islanders strongly preferred the Democratic presidential candidate in each of the past four presidential elections.

As is the case across the country, state residents with higher incomes are more likely to vote than those with lower incomes. In the last presidential election, only 52% of eligible Rhode Island voters earning $250 or less per week made it to the polls. Meanwhile, it is estimated that every eligible voter in the state earning between $1,750 and $2,000 a week participated in the election.

Rapid City, South Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

22. South Dakota
> Voter turnout: 64.3%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 27.5%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 59.6%

South Dakota’s voter turnout has on the whole mirrored that of the U.S., not exceeding the national rate by more than five percentage points in the last four presidential elections. In 2012, 61.0% of eligible voters in the state went to the polls compared to a nationwide turnout rate of 61.8%.

Those without work appear to be less inclined to go to the national polls, and the minimal political involvement among that group is certainly the case in South Dakota. Nationally, 41.9% of eligible Americans voted in the 2014 midterm election, while just 30.0% of those without jobs went to the polls. In South Dakota, just 14.3% of eligible unemployed residents voted that year.

Charlotte North Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

23. North Carolina done
> Voter turnout: 64.3%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 29.4%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 52.8%

Since the 2000 election, an increasingly large share of eligible North Carolina voters went to the polls, and in 2008 the state’s voter turnout rate surpassed the U.S. turnout rate overall. In the most recent election, North Carolina’s 68.9% voter turnout was about 7 percentage points higher than the 61.8% national rate.

Even more dynamic is the increased voter turnout of young and black voters in the state during the last two presidential elections. In 2000, when Bush beat Democratic rival Al Gore, 30.6% of eligible 18 to 24 year olds cast a ballot. In the 2008, when Obama defeated John McCain, that figure increased to 52.9%. Similarly, voter turnout among black voters in North Carolina increased from 64.4% in the 2004 Bush Kerry election to 80.2% in the most recent Obama Romney election.

Omaha, Nebraska
Source: Thinkstock

24. Nebraska
> Voter turnout: 63.8%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Republican
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 30.2%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 56.8%

Voter turnout in Nebraska has somewhat paralleled the national voter turnout rate in the last four elections. Political preferences, however, have not. A Republican candidate has won the state in the last four elections. Bush won by the largest margin of any Republican candidate in that time, beating Kerry in the state in the 2004 election by a margin of 33.2 percentage points. The smallest margin of victory occurred in 2008, when McCain beat Obama by 14.9 percentage points.

Columbus, Ohio
Source: Thinkstock

25. Ohio
> Voter turnout: 63.6%
> 2012 winning candidate’s party: Democrat
> Pct. with bachelor’s degree: 26.8%
> Pct. workers paid hourly: 59.4%

A notorious swing state, Ohio was won by the Republican candidate in 2000 and 2004, and the Democratic candidate in 2008 and 2012. In those elections, the victorious candidate never won by a margin greater than 4.6 percentage points. The closest recent presidential race in Ohio was in 2004, when Bush beat Kerry by a slim 2.1 percentage points.

Despite the state’s importance and the relative significance of each individual vote, voter turnout in Ohio is only slightly higher than it is across the country. An average of 63.6% of eligible voters made it to the polls in the last four presidential elections, a slightly higher share than the 62.2% of American voters who did.

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