Voter participation drop sharpest in odd-year elections

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It’s well known that voter turnout is strongest in presidential election years, weaker in mid-term years with races for federal office and weaker still in odd-year elections, which are typically limited to races for municipal office.

In Connecticut, declining turnout — the rate at which registered voters are showing up to cast ballots — has presidential election participation is approaching levels seen in the weaker mid-term elections 25 years ago. In turn, mid-term voter turnout is on par with that of municipal elections a quarter-century ago.

Turnout for Tuesday’s election was up a little bit, at 32.7%, the Secretary of the State’s office announced Friday.

Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, illustrated in the two charts below, show the rates of registration and voting for the whole population. However, these are survey results and are subject to sampling error, unlike the Secretary of the State’s turnout rates.

Who is casting ballots and who isn’t?

The Census survey data are further broken down by age, race, sex and education level. We looked at this breakdown for the election in 2014, the most recent year for which the data are available.

‘Too busy’

The Census Bureau doesn’t just ask if people voted; it asks why non-voters didn’t cast ballots. “Too busy” or “not interested” were the most common responses across the nation in 2014.

What do you think?

  • Joseph Brzezinski

    Time to reverse the trends. A good start would be only have elections in even years moving all municipal elections either to presidential or mid term years. Require both major parties to have candidates for all positions plus a few other fixes.

    • Peter Morgan

      I think you’re right, but insofar as CT is a Democrat dominated state, it would seem unlikely that odd year elections will be eliminated any time soon, according to the discussion in It’s not clear to me under what circumstances politicians would decide that low turnout is a problem for them.

      • Joseph Brzezinski

        Yes, in CT, it would be extremely unlikely, especially since republicans just added 1 more win in this week’s municipal elections getting up to 91 out of 169 towns.

        • James Norris

          Very discouraging. As someone who pays
          attention, it is disheartening to see so much apathy. And it obviously has led
          to no accountability for these CT Legislature folks in past 20 years time when
          we’ve been spent to point of bankruptcy. And it leads to another huge problem;
          why would anyone who might want to get involved in a fiscally responsible way
          even want to when you would be marginalized and basically laughed at by the
          party entrenched in power. You’d waste all your valuable time and get an ulcer.

          I hardly run into anyone who could even tell me even base level information about the state of the state (Example they have absolutely no idea if our annual budget is $5 billion or $20 billion).

      • CT native

        I think the Democrats have an interest in moving low turnout odd year municipal elections to higher turnout even years. The data suggest that more African American and Hispanic voters vote in higher profile even year elections.

        • Joseph Brzezinski

          Too bad registration and participation stats by party are not available.