Wow, America—We Just Had the Worst Election Turnout Since the Invention of the Slinky

Only the 1942 federal election had a lower showing of eligible voters, directly after the U.S. entered World War II.

(Photo: Andy Roberts/Getty Images)

Nov 12, 2014· 0 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

In 1942 Children hadn’t yet experienced the joy that comes from dropping a helical spring toy down a flight of stairs and watching it topple over itself. While the U.S. entry into WWII likely contributed to the lowest turnout in history, as opposed to the lack of Slinky ownership, this year’s voters had neither excuse to call on.

Only an estimated 36.3 percent of eligible voters added their voices to the democracy in last week’s midterm elections, according to the United States Elections Project. In this election, Republicans took control of the Senate, two states and the District of Columbia approved recreational marijuana, and one city passed a soda tax.

In the 2010 midterm elections, 40.9 percent of those able to vote made it to the polls.

States with hotly contested Senate races, such as Iowa and North Carolina, saw minor increases of about 1 percent. Louisiana saw a more substantial jump of 5 percent, although it'll have a runoff election in December between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and her Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy.

North Carolina’s bump, however small, is an interesting one, as the state increased voter restrictions by eliminating same-day registration and reducing early voting options. Kansas saw a similar bump of 1 percent after tightening up its electoral process by passing a law to require photo identification for voters.

Texas, however, saw turnout drop from 34.6 percent in 2010 to 28.5 percent last week, more than 8 points less than the national turnout. The Lone Star State also adopted a mandatory photo ID measure passed by the Supreme Court; dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called it an “unconstitutional poll tax.”