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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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Remains of the Data

Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

Political Crumbs

No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


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