Answer Man: Polling organizations project near-record election turnout

November 8, 2018

Answer Man, I keep hearing the TV talking heads say we could have a record turnout for midterm elections. What is the record? I could look it up, but I’d rather hear it from you. — Precinct Potentate

Of course, you do. The Answer Man’s political punditry is only exceeded by his perfect prose.

In recent years, voter turnout in the United States has fluctuated from about 40 percent in midterm elections to 60 percent in presidential elections. Pew Research Center says the U.S. ranks a dismal 26th among developed nations in voter turnout.

However, Edison Media Research projects a 45 percent turnout today of eligible voters nationwide. While impressive for a midterm, 45 percent would be short of the record 48.7 percent who voted in the 1966 midterm election. That was the first election after the passage of the Voting Right Act of 1965, which prompted a surge in African-American voters.

After underestimating Donald Trump’s support in 2016, Edison Media refined its exit polling methodology for the 2018 midterms. If the U.S. sets a record for midterm turnout, that means polling protocol will have to be fine-tuned again.

The record low turnout for midterms was 32.9 percent in 1926. Apparently, voter interest was still cool after Calvin Coolidge’s presidential election in 1924.

Minnesotans, on the other hand, love to show up at the ballot box and usually lead the nation in turnout. Our midterm record is 64.9 percent in 2002.

We were less enthusiastic four years ago with a 50.5 percent showing up for the midterms. That will change today.

With more than 539,000 early ballots accepted, the Secretary of State’s Office says Minnesota is ahead of the 2016 presidential election pace, and we’re likely to again have the highest turnout in the nation.

Crib sheet clarification

Responding to my classic column in Monday’s paper about what you may bring to the polls, Jim Fritsch of Rochester said his copy of the 2018 Election Judge Guide implicitly says, “Voters may take sample ballots or campaign fliers into the voting booth, but they should not display those materials outside the booth.”

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