One thing you’ve got to give to President Donald Trump: He really gets out the vote — even if he’s not on the ballot.
In Seattle and other liberal parts of the country, voters flocked to the polls in last November’s midterm elections, hoping a “blue wave” would flip control of a Trump-enabling Republican Congress. In more conservative areas, of course, voters were motivated to stop that from happening.
That pushed turnout to a midterm record high, according to data released last week from the Current Population Survey, which is produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Fifty-three percent of eligible voters (citizens who are age 18 and older) cast a ballot in 2018, the highest turnout for a midterm election in at least four decades. Republicans retained control of the Senate, while Democrats won back the House with a net gain of 40 seats.
In the Seattle metro area, which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the turnout was even more impressive: More than 1.8 million people, or 65% of eligible voters, cast a ballot. Among 82 metro areas with at least half a million eligible voters, that ranks as the fourth highest turnout. Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Virginia Beach eclipsed Seattle as the top three metros, in that order. Fifth highest is the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area, meaning that three of the top five metros are in the Upper Midwest.
The Seattle area contributed to the Democratic takeover of the House, as Kim Schrier beat Republican Dino Rossi in Washington’s 8th, a formerly “red” congressional district.
In any election, young people are less likely to vote than older folks. That held true for the 2018 midterms. Even so, the increase in turnout among young voters nationally was remarkable. In the 2014 midterms, just 20% of eligible 18- to 29-year-olds voted. That shot up to 36% in 2018.
But this might be both surprising and a bit disappointing to Seattleites: Our metro really didn’t stand out for youth turnout in 2018. Only about 39% of folks under 30 voted in the midterms. That is higher than the national average, but not by very much. The metro area with the highest turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds was San Jose, at 55%.
Kudos to Seattle seniors, though. Folks 65 and up were clearly champing at the bit to get those ballots in the mail last November. Nearly 80% voted in the midterms, the data shows. Only two large metro areas had a higher senior turnout: Minneapolis and Austin, Texas, both at 81%.
Women typically have a slightly higher voter turnout than men, and this was true in the Seattle area in the midterms, by 66% to 63%.
There is a strong correlation between an individual’s level of education and his or her likelihood of voting. Among eligible voters who do not have a high school diploma in the Seattle area, only one in three voted in the midterms. Among local folks who have a four-year college degree or higher, three in four cast a ballot.
And what about the nearly 300,000 residents of our metro area who could have voted, but didn’t — what’s their excuse?
The Current Population Survey does ask non-voters that question, and the top answer in the Seattle area is kind of a sad one: “Not interested/Felt my vote wouldn’t make a difference.”
Nearly one-quarter of non-voters here chose that response, which is higher than almost any other metro area. I’m at a loss to explain the local apathy. Perhaps in this very liberal area, a significant number of voters feel like the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion, so why bother voting? Not a great excuse, in any case.
Seattle also ranks very high for flakiness. Nearly one in five non-voters say they simply forgot. Only Jacksonville, Florida, had a higher percentage of absent-minded people in its electorate.
Nationally, the No. 1 excuse among non-voters by a wide margin is: “Too busy/Conflicting work or school schedule.” More than one-quarter selected that response.
As busy as we are in the Seattle area, that answer only ranked third, at just 13%. That’s probably because our vote-by-mail system gives folks a couple of weeks to post their ballot, which makes that particular excuse pretty flimsy.