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You have to go back 24 years to find a lower voter turnout number in Michigan

Nov 5, 2014

Ups and downs in voter turnout in Michigan.
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The number we're talking about is the percentage of the population old enough to vote.

Less than half of those people showed up at the polls on Election Day in Michigan.

Voter turnout for this year's election came in at 41.6%. In Michigan's last gubernatorial election four years ago, 42.9% of the voting age population turned up to vote.

Michigan's secretary of state's office reports that about 3.2 million votes were cast Tuesday - around 83,000 fewer than in the 2010 midterm election.

To find a lower turnout stat for midterm or presidential elections, you have to go back to 1990 in Michigan.

Here's a chart showing the history of voter turnout in Michigan since 1948. It shows gubernatorial election years and presidential election years. Presidential elections traditionally draw more people to the polls - hence the zig-zag. (The Pew Research Center has more on why that is.)

The chart:

Voter turnout in MI | Create Infographics

Nationally the trend was similar.

Analysis by the United States Elections Project showed a drop of 4.3% (national turnout was 36.6% this year, and 40.9% in 2010 - the last midterm election).

Political parties sometimes rely on big issues to get their base to the polls. Ballot proposals banning same-sex marriage drove some of the Republican base to the polls in 2004 - many of whom then voted for President Bush.

This time around, Democrats were hoping that ballot proposals to raise the minimum wage would help drive their base to the polls.

In three of the four states that passed minimum wage hikes, voter turnout increased when comparing 2010 to 2014 numbers. USA Today shows the 11 states where voter turnout increased.

That proposal didn't make it on the ballot in Michigan, so the ballot lacked an issue which could have propelled more Democrats to show up.

In addition to the lack of a hot-button issue, some have blamed the weather and voter apathy.

The Democratic candidate for governor, Mark Schauer, did do better than his 2010 counterpart. Bridge Magazine offers an interactive Google Map showing the counties where Schauer won, and the counties where Gov. Snyder won.

Former Democratic Rep. Mark Schauer did far better than Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero did in 2010, winning 14 counties to Bernero’s four, but turnout in the state’s Democratic strongholds didn’t materialize. In fact, 10,000 fewer Detroit voters, who gave Schauer 92 percent of the vote, cast ballots Tuesday compared to 2010.

In the end, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder won re-election Tuesday by 4 percentage points, and the Republican Party maintained control of both the state House and Senate.

The lone bright spot for Democrats was Gary Peters, who won a U.S. Senate seat by 13 points.

*This post has been updated.