With early voting kicking off in Georgia this week, you might be wondering how politically engaged the state really is. How many folks are actually turning out to vote?
In 2018 so far, voter turnout has soared. On the first day of in-person early voting Monday, 69,049 people cast their ballots, a sharp increase from the last midterm election in 2014, when 20,898 voters showed up on day one of early voting.
On the second day, there were even more folks at the polls.
But historically, Georgia is nowhere near the most politically engaged in America. In fact, according to personal finance website WalletHub, which recently released a report on the most and least politically engaged states (plus Washington, D.C.) based on a variety of factors, Georgia is among the bottom 15.
Analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key metrics, including percentage of registered voters, percentage of the electorate who actually voted in the 2014 midterms, in the 2016 presidential elections and more.
According to the report, Washington, D.C. is the most politically engaged of all, followed by Maine and Utah.
New Mexico, Hawaii and Alabama ranked among the bottom three least politically engaged states.
And Georgia came in at No. 38, but when it comes to the percentage of young voters, the state ranks among the top 20.
Here’s more on how Georgia fared:
- Overall rank: 38
- Education: 26
- GDP per capita: 30
- Tax fairness: 49
- Percentage of 18- to 24-year-old voters: 43.5 percent (Rank: 20)
- Percentage of voters over age 65: 72.4 percent (Rank: 28)
So why are some states more politically engaged than others?
“Two factors are particularly relevant,” Herbert Weisberg, emeritus professor of political science at Ohio State University, wrote in the WalletHub report. “First, some states make it easier to vote than other states. For example, Minnesota always has a high voter turnout because it allows same-day voter registration. By contrast, some states make it harder to register and to vote.”
Recently, civil rights organizations announced they are suing Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to stop the state from enforcing the “exact match” law, which has put more than 53,000 voter registrations on hold.
The law requires voter registration information to match driver’s licenses, state ID cards or Social Security records, The AJC previously reported. So voter registrations can be placed on hold due to missing hyphens, extra spaces or use of a nickname in official records.
“It imposes unnecessary and discriminatory burdens on the voter registration process,” according to the lawsuit, filed by the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing several civil rights organizations in the legal action.
Note that anyone placed on the pending voters list due to the law can still cast their ballots if they show valid photo ID either before they go to vote or at the polls.
“Second,” Weisberg wrote, “voter turnout rises when there are exciting races on the ballot. In midterm elections such as 2018, turnout will be higher turnout in states with governor and/or senator contests that are expected to be close.”
According to an AJC/Channel 2 Action News poll, the race for Georgia governor between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams remains locked less than one month ahead of the election.
“The poll showed Kemp ahead of Abrams 47.7 percent to 46.3 percent, a statistically insignificant difference within the poll’s 2.8 percentage point margin of error,” AJC politics reporter Greg Bluestein reported last week. “Libertarian Ted Metz had 2.3 percent of support, and a slim 4 percent of voters are undecided.”
Another poll released Wednesday from Reuters, Ipsos and the University of Virginia Center for Politics shows Kemp leading Abrams 47-46, “a statistically insignificant difference within the margin of error. Two percent of voters backed Libertarian Ted Metz and 4 percent were undecided,” Bluestein reported.
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