Virginia turnout and turnout rates down through the many long years!


Taking a look at the record:
Democrats scored a lot of good wins in Virginia Tuesday night.

Beyond that, new House of Delegates member Danica Roem gave one of the best interviews we've ever heard to Lawrence on Tuesday night.

Danica Roem knows how to talk! We plan to discuss her remarks this weekend.

Yesterday, we decided to explore the size of Tuesday's turnout. We hit upon some information which we thought was worth recording.

First, how big was Tuesday's turnout? The answer: Turnout was substantially larger than in the 2013 gubernatorial election, but significantly smaller than in years not long past.

Let's start at the beginning! According to the leading authority on Virginia elections, these were the turnout rates, through 2013, in gubernatorial elections:
Turnout rates, Virginia gubernatorial elections (percent of registered voters)
1977: 62.7 percent
1981: 64.8 percent
1985: 53.0 percent
1989: 66.5 percent

1993: 61.1 percent
1997: 49.5 percent
2001: 46.4 percent
2005: 45.0 percent

2009: 40.4 percent
2013: 43.0 percent
For all data, just start here, then click back through past years. Or you can just click here.

As you can see from these numbers, participation has substantially dropped in the years since 1993. Based on the number of votes cast this week (see below), it looks like this year's turnout rate was roughly 50 percent. That's a big jump from 2013, but it only restores the overall turnout rate to where it stood in 1997.

(Given Tuesday's outcome, we'd assume the increase in turnout came from Democrats more than from Republicans. Presumably, some of the overall rise was caused by Governor McAuliffe's restoration of voting rights to an estimated 156,000 felons this year.)

How much was raw turnout up this year? Here's the figure for this year, as compared to 2013:
Total votes cast, Virginia gubernatorial election
2013: 2.24 million votes
2017: 2.61 million votes
That's an increase of 370,000 votes, or roughly 16.5%. A few points of that increase is attributable to population growth. Presumably, McAuliffe's action helped a bit more.

As compared to recent years, that was a large turnout for a gubernatorial election. Still, turnout fell far short of the norm for a presidential year:
Total votes cast, Virginia presidential election
2012: 3.85 million votes; turnout 71.1%
2016: 3.98 million votes; turnout 72.1%
As you can see, this year's raw total was substantially below where it was last year. Last year, 3.98 million votes were cast in Virginia. This year, the number dropped to 2.61 million. This fact is reflected in the comparative vote totals for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Ralph Northam this year:
Total votes received, Virginia elections:
Hillary Clinton (2016): 1.98 million votes
Ralph Northam (2017): 1.41 million votes
If Democrats liked this year's turnout, there's almost surely room for improvement next year.

Democrats scored a lot of wins across the state. Also, Danica Roem really knows how to talk.

We're most struck by the drop in overall turnout rates since 1993. That pattern still obtained even in this higher-interest year.


  1. Is there a point buried in here some place?

    Is it that we're supposed to feel like crud as Democrats because the turnout during a gubernatorial race wasn't as high as during the presidential election?

    Is he saying "don't get too happy, Democrats" because we have nothing to celebrate unless every midterm race outdoes the previous presidential election?

    There is a strong whiff of doom and he is pooping on our glee in a way that doesn't help anyone interested in liberal politics. Luckily, no one will read past the first few sentences.

  2. I heard her interviewed by Chris Matthews. Danica Roem did a good job of deflecting questions about herself and evaded talking about the ugly side of her opponent. She appears to have a nice sense of humor. On the other hand, she talked a lot about the traffic on Route 68 (or wherever) and how it hasn't gotten any better since she was a kid. Matthews told her to learn to generalize from local to broader issues (such as infrastructure). Maybe she took that to heart.

    Somerby's repeated heavy-handed praise for her strikes a false note. She seems like a nice person who is new to politics, but she isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread. His over praise of her comes across like someone leaning over backwards to like our first transgender elected representative. If he weren't trying so hard to demonstrate his tolerance, he would be trashing her for being too much like Rachel Maddow, or some similar crime. She isn't Malala -- she just won an election against an opponent who exemplified all the faults of Trump's most deplorable deplorables.

  3. "We're most struck by the drop in overall turnout rates since 1993. That pattern still obtained even in this higher-interest year."

    As he blithely disregards voter suppression and gerrymandering in favor of blaming liberals.

    1. Suppression occurs when the people being suppressed don't vote and allow the suppressors to win. See 2010

    2. You've missed the very meaning of suppression, which is preventing people from voting when they were trying to vote — disenfranchising them — closing the polls outright, as happened to 868 polling places in largely African-American and Latino districts across the Deep South and Southwest in 2016; kicking people off the voter registration lists with Crosscheck (whose architect Kris Kobach is now Trump's man in charge of national voting policy); or blocking still legally-registered voters from voting at still-open polls by demanding driver's licenses even from non-car-owners — oh, and other IDs would be acceptable, except that the DMV offices that could issue them got shut down or so severely limited in hours and accessibility that few voters could actually get them. This is not the way that governments who want their citizens to vote behave.

  4. Kevin Drum is once again clueless about gender issues. He notes the greater increase in favorability of attitudes toward Obamacare among women compared to men. Among his speculations about reasons for the difference, he ignores that Obamacare improved healthcare more for women than for men, by correcting unfairness in the previous system. Obamacare is a more favorable change for women than for men. Free mammograms, pap smears, birth control, preventive care for kids — this is a big deal for women. The election made that clear to women. Men already had coverage for viagra etc.

    If Kevin Drum knew any women, they might have explained this stuff to him.

  5. "Danica Roem knows how to talk."

    Still selling that snakeoil -

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