Voter Turnout Was Spectacular This Year — But Not in California

NOTE: This post is totally wrong. A corrected post is here.

For the past two months I’ve heard nothing except hoots and hollers about how voter turnout this year is going to be amazing. Excitement is sky high! Early voting is tremendous! Lines to vote are miles long!

And apparently everyone was right. Edison estimates that voter turnout reached 49 percent in 2018, the highest in a midterm election in the past 40 years:

On the other hand, here in the center of the Resistance voter turnout was dismal, the worst in 40 years. This is almost certainly because of our crappy top-two primary, which makes most of our statewide offices completely uninteresting. We had plenty of good local races and plenty of ballot initiatives this year, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that both the Senate race and the Governor’s race were foregone conclusions.

[UPDATE: I’m reliably told that the California numbers only include the ballots counted so far. The final number will probably be at least 3-5 points higher than it is in my chart. This is still not great, but at least it’s better than 2014.]

Moral of the story: If you want people to turn out to vote, you need to give them something interesting to vote for. Here in California we rarely do that anymore. We should go back to an ordinary primary system that allows Democrats and Republicans to pick their candidates separately. Maybe then we could persuade people to get out and vote.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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