Turnout in U.S. elections trails many other countries by some measures

Voter turnout in the 2020 U.S. general election soared to levels not seen in decades, fueled by the bitter campaign between Joe Biden and Donald Trump and facilitated by pandemic-related changes to state election rules.

More than 158.4 million people voted in that election, according to a Pew Research Center tabulation of official state returns, amounting to 62.8% of people of voting age, using Census Bureau estimates of the 2020 voting-age population.

The 2020 voting surge followed unusually high turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, when about 47.5% of the voting-age population – and 51.8% of voting-age citizens – went to the polls.

A smaller share of Americans appear to have voted in the 2022 midterm elections than the last one, but in some states, voter enthusiasm exceeded the high mark set in 2018, according to an analysis of U.S. Elections Project data.

Democrats won eight of the nine seats rated competitive by Cook Political Report. The only remaining race will be decided in Georgia in a Dec. 6 runoff, which will determine if Democrats hold 50 or 51 seats.

Republicans won the five seats they needed to capture to win control of the House of Representatives, but while only a handful of contests remain undecided, the GOP gains fell well short of the red wave they once envisioned, as Democrats countered with campaigns centered on abortion rights and fighting GOP extremism.

Prior to the election, there was much speculation about how the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade would affect women’s voting patterns. Exit polls show that 47% of female voters felt angry about that decision, and 83% of those women voted for a Democratic candidate. 

Among the youngest American voters, Democrats have held an advantage in votes for House of Representatives candidates in every midterm or presidential election since the late 1990s, but in 2022, the 18- to 29-year-old age group showed an even more pronounced shift toward Democrats. 

While men overall voted Republican by a margin of 11 percent, men ages 18 to 29 preferred Democratic candidates by a margin of 12 percent. Women ages 18 to 29 supported Democratic candidates by a margin of 46 percent, compared with an eight percent margin among all female voters.

One big difference between 2018 and 2022 is that Donald Trump was not in power this year but Trump-ism still factored heavily in the mix, and it motivated voters.

Still, the Biden Democrats suffered a significant defeat by losing majority control in the House of Representatives, which will now probably become a massive obstacle to anything that is an important national interest.

Despite losing in a third-straight election cycle, multiple impeachments and ongoing criminal investigations, Republicans still can’t say no to Trump.

The conduct in recent years of GOP elected officials who have diminished America’s credit rating, undermined economic recovery efforts and slowed emergency responses to natural disasters reveals a sick and dangerous mindset that has been rewarded for evil by voters.

Turnout was especially high for a midterm in several battleground states, where expectations of a close contest appeared to boost voter participation. Voter turnout in Pennsylvania is on track to exceed 2018 by four percentage points. Nearly 6 in 10 eligible voters in Wisconsin and Michigan cast a ballot.

But in a handful of states, voter enthusiasm fell far below 2018 levels and was more on par with the record lows seen in 2014. In Mississippi and West Virginia, less than 35 percent of eligible voters participated. In New Jersey and Maryland, turnout is anticipated to be 10 percentage points lower than 2018.

In places without very competitive elections, incumbents lost because voters do not approve of the political establishment’s performance in meeting the needs of the people. That disenchantment snuck up on five New York Democrats whose defeat handed the House to Republicans, and made the United States vulnerable to its enemies and detractors who put politics ahead of patriotism.

I may be too late to do anything about this, and our republic may not survive.

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