Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Election Turnout Down in 2014; Louisiana Run-off Tomorrow

In Election Analysis, Senate on December 5, 2014 at 10:46 am

Now that states are beginning to report their certified election numbers, we can better gauge the 2014 turnout patterns. It appears that over eight million fewer people voted in this mid-term election than did in 2010. This is a large number to be sure, but much of the participation fall-off comes from places that featured little in the way of competitive elections.

Thirty-five states are reporting turnout figures that are lower than their respective voter participation tabulations for 2010. This is a substantial number in any event, but even more so when one is cognizant of the fact that virtually all states have increased population and higher registered voter totals now than they did four years ago. Conversely, 15 states saw an increase in aggregate voter turnout when compared to 2010.

The three states with the steepest turnout drop are Missouri, California and Nevada.

The Show Me State found 34.2 percent fewer people voting in this past election than in the last mid-term, but that is likely due to the fact that the only statewide contest was for the office of auditor, and none of the eight congressional races were viewed as competitive heading into Election Day. With California Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) re-election being a foregone conclusion and no Golden State US Senate contest, mid-term turnout in America’s largest state dropped 27.6 percent. California did have a host of competitive congressional contests, but they were not enough to balance the turnout model.

Nevada is likely the state where the low turnout led to the biggest changes in state politics. Because voter participation dropped 24.1 percent from the past mid-term election and, based upon the results, an overwhelming number of Democratic voters comprised the non-participation universe, the Republican governor (Brian Sandoval) recorded a landslide re-election and the GOP gained a Democratic congressional seat, allowing them to now claim three of the state’s four US House members. Perhaps more importantly, Republicans gained control of both houses of the state legislature.

But the three states with the largest turnout increase, Louisiana, Colorado and Wisconsin, all had highly competitive statewide campaigns that obviously spurred greater participation.

Louisiana, with the big money Senate race that will be decided in a run-off vote tomorrow, saw a 16.4 percent increase in turnout when compared to 2010, the largest such positive swing in the nation. Colorado, with hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, saw turnout rise 14.2 percent. With Republicans winning the Senate race and Democrats the gubernatorial contest, it appears that both parties increased their voter participation figures. Finally, Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker was embroiled in his third tough electoral contest in four years, saw 11 percent more voters going to the polls in 2014 versus 2010, but still over 105,000 fewer than voted in the 2012 gubernatorial recall election.

Louisiana

All indicators point to a Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) victory over Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in tomorrow’s Louisiana statewide run-off election. Five post-primary polls give the Baton Rouge congressman an average 15.6 percent lead over the three-term senator, with the high/low range stretching from 21 to 11 points. More than 78 percent of all run-off television commercials have been either pro-Cassidy or anti-Landrieu, and the early vote tabulation suggests more Republicans and fewer Democrats mailed in ballots than did so in the original Nov. 4 election.

Should Cassidy claim victory, Republicans will increase their new majority total to 54 seats, almost a complete reversal of the Democrats’ current 55-45 split.

Expect a Republican sweep in the two House run-off campaigns, also. In the open 5th District, the northeastern Louisiana CD that denied freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R) advancement to the run-off, it appears that Dr. Ralph Abraham (R), a first-time candidate, will score a win over Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (D).

In Rep. Cassidy’s open 6th District, former Jindal Administration official Garret Graves (R) is poised to defeat four-term governor, ex-congressman, and ex-felon Edwin Edwards (D) in what has been an entertaining contest to say the least. Edwards placed first in the primary election, but the strong Republican nature of the Baton Rouge-anchored district will lead Graves to a convincing political triumph.

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