How Voter Access Laws and Passion Brought People to the Polls

By: - May 8, 2019 12:00 am

Then-Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a Democrat, speaks at a get-out-the-vote rally ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, which propelled Utah to the nation’s largest growth in turnout and elected McAdams to the U.S. Congress. Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press

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In Utah, marijuana revved up voter interest last year, and new election policies made it easier for people to cast their ballots, leading to the nation’s biggest jump in midterm turnout.

Around the country, state efforts to widen ballot access and Trump-era political passion spurred more voters to the polls in November than the last midterm elections in 2014. Nationally, 53% of the citizen voting-age population voted in 2018, a 12-point bump from the previous midterms, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The increases ranged from 21 points in Utah, where about 58% of voting-age citizens voted, down to Colorado, where there was little change. Turnout already was high in Colorado at 59%, partly because the state was a pioneer in expanding ballot access.

Georgia (13 points) and California (15 points) saw big improvements with similar programs, such as automatic voter registration.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.