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Upper Midwest Leads the Nation in 2006 Voter Turnout

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The Upper Midwest continued to set the pace for election turnout in this year's mid-term elections. While preliminary, unofficial numbers are only available in some states, it appears the Upper Midwest has locked down 3 of the top 6 slots in voter turnout (turnout can be calculated by a variety of methods but is defined here as the total votes cast for the highest office on the ballot in a state divided by the number of people eligible by law to vote in that state).

Minnesota once again led the country with a turnout rate of 59.6%. This is the lowest mid-term voter performance in Minnesota since 1994 (54.2%). In 2002 63.1% of Minnesotans voted, nearly 3 points higher than 1998 (60.2%), and the highest level in more than 45 years.

Not surprisingly, South Dakota also had a very high turnout on Election Day at 57.8% - which was good for second best in the nation. This is an impressive number considering South Dakota did not have a competitive gubernatorial or at-large US House race this year. In 2002, the state's turnout eclipsed 60% in the wake of one of the closest US Senate races in South Dakota history (with Democrat incumbent Tim Johnson edging John Thune by 500 votes). Turnout in 2006 may have been boosted by several referenda on the ballot, including a controversial abortion ban that was defeated by voters.

Wisconsin emerged with an impressive 52.6% turnout, and sixth best in the nation. This is the highest voter turnout in the Badger State since 1962 when 53.0% of Wisconsinites came to the polls. Voters were particularly engaged in the electoral process in 2006 by the state's competitive governor's race, a rare competitive US House race (in the 8th Congressional district), an unusually high-profile battle for Attorney General, and referenda on the death penalty and the definition of marriage. The 2006 turnout in Wisconsin was therefore noticeably higher than in recent mid-term elections: 44.8% in 2002, 46.1% in 1998, 42.5% in 1994, and 35.3% in 1990.

Iowa's turnout in 2006 was 47.4%, good for 15th best in the United States, despite a high profile gubernatorial race and three competitive US House races out of five congressional districts. This level of voter interest in Iowa was on par with recent mid-term elections: 47.1% in 2002, 44.7% in 1998, 47.0% in 1994, and 48.3% in 1990.

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Remains of the Data

Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

Political Crumbs

Haugh to Reach New Heights

The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


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