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Voter Turnout Uncertain for 2006 Election

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A handful of scandals in Washington during the past year as well as low approval ratings for Congress in general lead one to speculate whether voters will be turned off by politics and stay home in November, or motivated to—as some pundits claim—'throw all the bums out.'

Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest usually lead the country in turning out the vote in general elections. However, turnout in non-presidential election years is noticeably depressed even in this politically engaged part of the country.

Overall, voter turnout in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin has averaged 68% in presidential elections since 1960, compared to just 52% in off years. Minnesota leads the pack in presidential elections during this span (72%) with South Dakota ahead in off years (58%).

Minnesota has turned out the vote quite well in off years during recent elections—inspired in part by competitive races, tragic events (Senator Paul Wellstone's death) and notable third party campaigns (Jesse Ventura, Tim Penny) that have generated unusual interest and media coverage. In 2002 63% of voting age adults in the Gopher state took the time to vote, preceded by 60% in 1998. The same cannot be said for its neighbors Iowa (47%, 45%) or Wisconsin (45%, 46%).

2006 is an off year election, and no one yet knows if turnout will be dismal, approaching record highs, or somewhere in between. It is even more difficult for political junkies to speculate on turnout, as our interest in politics is horribly skewed compared to the average voter. Smart Politics will therefore wait until November 8th to make our predictions.

Previous post: Third Parties: Minnesota Leads the Pace in US House Races
Next post: US House Redistricting: Iowa Gets Lowest Marks for Proportionality

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Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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