By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023
A Look at the Midterm Numbers — Particularly in low turnout elections, the voter participation figure tends to be definitive as to which party commands the final result. Now that election statistics are final for the 2022 election, we can better analyze the voting patterns and compare them to past trends.
2018 proved to be the highest turnout midterm election in history. In that year, more than 114 million people cast their ballots. The 2022 midterm is now second highest even though voter turnout dropped seven percent from four years previous. In November, just under 106 million total votes were recorded.
According to the Ballotpedia data organization in their state-by-state turnout recap, 50.33 percent of the eligible voting population participated in 2018 and a commensurate 46.76 percentage is recorded for 2022. By contrast, Ballotpedia finds that 66.8 percent of the eligible voting population participated in the 2020 presidential election. Based upon their calculations, 2020 saw the highest eligible voter turnout in the 21st century.
The Ballotpedia data tells us that the 2022 election’s top five turnout states were Oregon (61.51 percent of the state’s eligible voter figure), Maine (61.46 percent), Minnesota (61.01 percent), Wisconsin (60.1 percent), and Michigan (59.31 percent).
Conversely, the lowest five turnout states were Tennessee (31.34 percent of the state’s eligible voter figure), Mississippi (32.89 percent), West Virginia (35.66 percent), Alabama (37.74 percent), and Oklahoma (40.11 percent).
Three of the top turnout states saw a much higher ratio of registered voters casting their ballots when compared to the eligible figures. Maine’s registered voter turnout soared to 75.3 percent, Wisconsin recorded 75.1 percent, and Minnesota reached 69.4 percent. Michigan was one of just 11 states where 2022 turnout exceeded that of 2018.
Except for Tennessee and Alabama, the lowest turnout states also produced substantial increases in registered voter turnout when compared to their eligible voter number. Oklahoma rose to a 50.23 percent participation rate from the registered voter population; Mississippi 44.3 percent; and West Virginia 40.8 percent. Even among registered voters, the Tennessee and Alabama totals failed to reach the 40 percent plateau.
Hosting competitive and exciting electoral contests certainly affects voter turnout. Among the lower turnout states, for example, Mississippi and West Virginia did not feature even one statewide race on their ballots, thus the US House became the leading contest in each congressional district.
In Tennessee, while the governor’s race was on the ballot, there was never any doubt that GOP incumbent Bill Lee would coast to re-election and little competition was present in each of the state’s nine congressional contests. Therefore, the lack of competitive elections accounts, to a degree, for the lower turnout totals in these particular states.
Competition, however, is not the only factor that influences voter participation. Historical voting patterns suggest that some electorates consistently rate a higher voter turnout percentage while others are typically among the lowest.
Comparing 2022 with the 2018 midterm, we find that Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin rated in the top five turnout states in both of these election years. Among the lowest turnout domains, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi are present among the bottom five voter participation states in both 2018 and 2022.
Oregon and Wisconsin were two of the country’s most competitive states in 2022, and those hot races had an effect upon turnout as evidenced in both states finishing among the top five highest participation entities.
Conversely, states such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania all hosted a series of highly competitive races but did not land in the highest turnout category.
Arizona, at 49.4 percent turnout of their eligible voters, ranked just three percentage points above the national turnout average. On the other hand, Colorado was the sixth highest turnout state with a strong 58.45 percent rate.
Florida was on par with Arizona, while Georgia, with a 52.6 percent participation factor among its eligible voters posted a percentage greater than 5.5 points above the national average. This is not surprising considering the Peach State hosted two of the most publicized governor and Senate contests in the country.
Nevada, with seven contested statewide races, nationally important governor and Senate races, and three highly competitive congressional contests, saw their eligible voter turnout number reach 46.27 percent, surprisingly a half-point below the national average. Pennsylvania, with one of the top Senate national contests, scored well above the national average with 54.7 percent of eligible voters participating.