News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.

Turnout by the young soared last year, especially in states with hot races

Youth turnout surged across the country last fall, exceeding the voter participation gains in virtually every big and bellwether state.

The new turnout estimates for the 2018 midterm, from demographers at Tufts University, drew a direct connection between political competition and boosted turnout among voters younger than 30 – making plain that energizing the younger electorate can have a demonstrable impact on the outcome of a tight presidential contest and tossup congressional races next year.

But the research also makes clear that younger people from coast to coast get to the polls less frequently than their older voters. Nationwide, 50 percent of eligible voters turned out, the best participation in a midterm year in more than a century. But the highest youth turnout the researchers found was in Minnesota, at 44 percent.

Still, in each of the seven states with the most closely-watched Senate contests last fall, youth turnout was more than 25 percentage points higher than in the 2014 midterm.

The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts, which studies youth civic engagement, made its estimates based on voting data from 34 states, including nine of the 10 most populous (California the exception) and all but three of the states eyed as being competitive on the 2020 presidential map. (The data is not yet available from Arizona, Wisconsin or New Hampshire.)

Youth turnout increased in every state studied. And in 26 of them the increase exceeded the increase in overall voter turnout. This was true in every one of the dozen potential 2020 presidential battlegrounds for which there was data.

Six of the eight states where that did not happen are reliably Republican on the national map, which the researchers said reflected findings from last fall that the GOP did not reach out to younger voters nearly so aggressively as the Democrats did. Youth turnout gains also lagged behind the general electorate's enthusiasm in three traditionally red states — Missouri, Tennessee and Texas — that hosted marquee Senate races where Republicans triumphed despite particularly strong Democratic campaigns.

The study said these were the states where youth turnout topped 30 percent:

  • Minnesota: 44 percent
  • Montana: 42 percent
  • Colorado: 41 percent
  • Oregon: 39 percent
  • Maine: 36 percent
  • Iowa: 35 percent
  • Washington: 35 percent
  • Georgia: 33 percent
  • Virginia: 33 percent
  • Massachusetts: 33 percent
  • Michigan: 33 percent
  • Florida: 32 percent
  • Connecticut: 31 percent
  • Pennsylvania: 30 percent
  • Missouri: 30 percent
News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

Keep reading... Show less
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

Keep reading... Show less