What Will Turnout Look Like on Election Day?

Nov 2, 2018

Credit Laura LaRose / Flickr

Voters are headed to the polls next week to vote in the midterm elections. But how many are expected to show up?

Virginia lags behind the national average for turnout during midterm elections. Sometimes it’s just a little below the national average. Sometimes Virginia is far below the national average.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says the reason for that is the system of electing state offices in odd-year elections.

“The reason that Virginia is at or near the bottom in mid-term election after midterm election is because the state has decided to give Virginians extra elections, and that splits up the people who care about different elections at different times.”

And then there’s the lack of competitive races. Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says voters don’t show up at the polls in congressional districts where everyone already knows the outcome.

“These haven’t been competitive races for several decades. Virginia is just approaching a point where we have more competitive congressional races than normal, and we only have three this year — four if count the Fifth, if that really is going to be a competitive race.”

The lowest turnout in a midterm election was back in 1998. Census records show only 31% of Virginia voters showed up in that election, compared to the national average, which was 46%.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.