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The Rise in Midterm Voter Turnout Was Monumental

But we have to keep fighting the barriers that block people from voting

November 9, 2018

This week’s 2018 midterm elections saw a huge increase in voter turnout. An estimated 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races. That marks a major jump from the 83 million cast in 2014 – and the first time a midterm election has surpassed 100 million votes.

In all, more than 47 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. That’s the highest turnout rate for a midterm since 1966, which boasted a 49 percent turnout.

There was a surge in early voting – a record-breaking 39 million votes in total. Approximately 31% of young voters (ages 18–29) turned out to vote, a remarkable increase from 21% in 2014. And Oregon, which adopted automatic voter registration (AVR) in 2015, broke a state record for voter turnout in a midterm election.

There’s a lot of room for improvement

Tuesday’s turnout numbers are encouraging, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Historically, the United States has one of the lowest voter participation rates among advanced democracies. Consequences of low voter turnout include the misrepresentation of the electorate and increased political polarization.

In addition, this year’s high voter turnout rates came despite an election season that was marked by a rise in voter suppression. From 2014 to 2016, almost 16 million voters were purged from the rolls. Thanks to new restrictive voting laws, it’s harder to vote now in nine states than it was in 2016. Across the country, there were efforts to make voting more difficult. In North Dakota, a voter ID law threatened to disenfranchise Native Americans, while in Georgia, a range of controversial voting practices created major problems.

Increasing voter turnout is critical. Our democracy is healthier when more people exercise their most fundamental democratic right. We need to keep fighting to ensure that voting is available and accessible for everyone.

(Image: Jessica McGowan/Getty)