The 2018 elections could see the highest turnout for a midterm since the mid-1960s, according to an elections expert who has been studying voting patterns. In fact, based on evidence to date, it could be the highest midterm election turnout ever.
“It’s probably going to be a turnout rate that most people have never experienced in their lives for a midterm election,” said Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who studies turnout and maintains a turnout database, told National Public Radio (NPR).
McDonald is now predicting that nearly 50 percent of eligible voters will cast a ballot. And although that may not seem extremely high, it would be a level of voting not seen 1966 when a record 49 percent of eligible voters turned out in a midterm election.
In 1966 Democrats faced a backlash after a massive landslide in their favor in 1964. President Lyndon Johnson was president, the Vietnam war was raging, and Congress had just passed Johnson’s Great Society programs including Medicare, voting rights and civil rights.
In 1966, however, Democrats lost 47 House seats and three Senate seats. As writer T.A. Frail at the Smithsonian put it, this election brought, “the end of the New Deal coalition and the realignment of voters that will put Richard M. Nixon in the White House in 1968.”
Historically, since World War II, turnout in midterm elections has been only about 40 percent on average. For some reasons Americans who are eligible to vote usually decide it’s not worth it to cast a ballot in midterms. In fact, midterm voter turnout is usually about 30 percent lower than in presidential elections.
In 2014, a record low number — just 36 percent — of eligible American voters cast a ballot. This was the lowest in 70 years. The only year when it was lower was 1942 when many Americans were involved in wars overseas.
Obviously Donald Trump’s chaotic and controversial presidency has generated a high level of interest in the 2018 midterms. Democrats (especially women Democrats) are angry and frustrated, eager for change and looking for political revenge.
The 2018 midterms offer Democrats their first chance to express their views about Trump and his presidency and about Republican policies in general.
Professor McDonald said he bases his forecast of record midterm election turnout on the following four indicators:
- Record turnout in special elections held since Trump was elected.
- High turnout throughout the country in all 2018 primaries.
- A high degree of reported interest in the election, based on public opinion surveys, and
- High levels of early voting so far.
On that last point, McDonald said he is seeing early voting patterns that are not only very high but higher than ever before seen in history. In Georgia, for example, compared to 2014, early votes turnout is three times higher so far.
“It just seems like all four indicators, they’re all pointing in the same direction,” McDonald said.
On top of that, McDonald said that 2018 has shown a record number of candidates filing to run for office, including large numbers of women candidates.
High turnout favors Democrats, and this analysis from Professor McDonald is just one more piece of evidence that 2018 will be a Blue Wave election which will start the political pendulum swinging back in favor of the Democratic Party.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.