U.S. Midterm Voter Turnout Highest In A Century

November 16, 2018

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • President: first post-midterm national poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading other Democratic party contenders
  • 2018 Election Report: voter turnout highest in a century
  • Arizona Senate: after appointed Sen. Jon Kyl resigns following the lame duck session as anticipated, speculation growing next appointment could be recent Senate candidate Rep. Martha McSally (R)
  • Florida Senate: recount lawsuits mean long delays in determining winner
  • California & NJ: in late results, Democrats take CA-10/Denham, CA-48/Rohrabacher and possibly CA 39/Royce-Open & 45/Walters; NJ-3/MacArthur flips to Democrats as well
  • ME-2: ranked choice system changes outcome with Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) losing to state Rep. Jared Golden (D)
  • UT-4: Rep. Mia Love (R) comes storming back and within 1,229 votes from Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D)
  • Florida Governor: Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) unofficial winner over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D)


First Post-Midterm National Poll: Morning Consult and the Politico publication joined forces to test the national Democratic presidential primary, the first such released survey after the 2018 mid-term election. According to the result (11/7-9; 1,952 US registered voters; 773 Democratic primary voters), former Vice President Joe Biden jumps out to a lead with more than one-quarter support, but far from reaching the majority plateau. Mr. Biden commands 26% in the poll, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with 19%, and newcomer Beto O'Rourke, the Texas Congressman and defeated US Senate candidate, who posts 8% preference.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), follow with 5, 4 & 3%, respectively. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg draws 2% support. Nine other candidates attracted just 1%, while four lesser known individuals did not even register on the poll.


Turnout Report: National voter turnout reports are surfacing and University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who manages the United States Election Project, estimates that more than 115 million people will have voted in the 2018 midterm election when all of the results are final. This is an all-time record in terms of aggregate vote, and the eligible voter turnout percentage of an estimated 48.9% is the highest since the 1914 midterm.

By contrast in 2014, the national voter turnout was 83.2 million people, or just under 37% of the eligible voters. That total was the lowest in the post-World War II era. The 2016 presidential election saw almost 137 million voters cast a ballot, the highest aggregate ever.


Arizona:  While Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) conceded her US Senate battle to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) on Monday, speculation is growing that she still may find herself in the Senate sooner rather than later. Should Sen. Jon Kyl (R) resign after the lame duck session, as he indicated that he would when he accepted Gov. Doug Ducey's (R) appointment, Rep. McSally would be in prime position for the next appointment.

In any event, the Arizona seat will be in special election mode during the 2020 regular cycle. Sen. John McCain (R) was re-elected in 2016, meaning this seat will again come before the electorate for the six-year term in 2022. Therefore, the appointed Senator must stand before the voters in the next regular election. Among Democrats, two names are quickly surfacing as possible candidates. Former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods, who is now a Democrat, and US Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) are frequently being mentioned as possible special election contenders.

Florida:  The recount deadline expired on Thursday, and 66 of Florida's 67 counties submitted new totals after completing the machine recount process. The one county not complying, Palm Beach, did not meet the time requirement because of machine malfunctioning. Their antiquated system can only count races consecutively and not simultaneously. Because of more than 174,000 ballots being mis-read or mis-counted and then the machines over-heating, all 600,000+ votes must be resubmitted. In addition to the US Senate race being legally within the recount guidelines, so are the Governor and Agriculture statewide contests. In addition, Palm Beach County has one state House of Representatives race that is also in political limbo.

Counting Palm Beach's original numbers, which were re-submitted at the deadline, Gov. Rick Scott (R) leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by 12,603 votes, an increase of 47 votes. The next step is constituting three-member canvassing teams in all counties who will review contested ballots and submit them to hand counting. Seven lawsuits have been filed regarding including or excluding pockets of ballots in the various counties, the largest vote cache in Broward County. Palm Beach is ordered to have its recounts submitted by 3 pm on Sunday.

Massachusetts:  Sen. Ed Markey (D) announced this week that he will stand for re-election to a second full term in 2020, but it might not be without significant primary opposition. Though he claims to have no plans to challenge Sen. Markey, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) is not completely ruling out doing so. Before winning a special Senate election after then-Sen. John Kerry (D) became Secretary of State and clinching a full term in 2014, Sen. Markey served in the House for 37 years. He would again be rated as a heavy favorite in both the ensuing primary and general elections.


California:  The Golden State's voting system that allows voters to postmark their ballots on Election Day is again making California the last state in the union to call their races, and the process is likely to drag on for a much longer period of time. State and county authorities estimate that they have an astounding 3.4 million more mail ballots remaining to count. Adding to the approximately 8 million votes already tabulated would take the statewide voter turnout number to the 11.5 million range. In contrast, only 7.3 million voted in the 2014 midterm election. Almost 14.2 million participated in the 2016 presidential campaign.

CA-10; NJ-3:  Two more congressional campaigns have been clinched. Both Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) have now lost their seats to Democratic challengers Josh Harder and Andy Kim, respectively. With these victories, it appears that the new Democratic majority could grow to as high as 235, meaning an increase of 40 seats. Five races remain uncalled, and Democrats look well positioned in at least three of the remaining undecided House campaigns, if not all.

CA-45 & 39:  Though this race has not yet been officially called, it is appearing more likely that Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) will become yet another Republican casualty of the California vote. Now falling behind challenger Katie Porter (D) by just under 4,000 votes, the swing toward the Democrat has eclipsed 10,000 votes since the post-Election Day counting began. There could still reasonably be about 75,000 votes still to count, but the trends here favor a Porter victory.

If the open 39th District contest between Young Kim (R) and Gil Cisneros (D) also goes Democratic, although that election is still within 1,000 votes and Ms. Kim leading, the party will have converted six Republican seats in California alone when tabulations are finally completed at the end of the month.

CA-48:  Though thousands of votes will be added to the final total, a projection was made in what should be the safely Republican 48th Congressional District, a seat fully contained within Orange County. Businessman Harley Rouda (D) defeated Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), ostensibly ending the Congressman's 30-year political career. Mr. Rohrabacher's strange ties to the Russian government and his many favorable comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin were a major reason for his defeat in addition to the national political climate.

ME-2:  As expected, the Ranked Choice Voter system that allows people who vote for minor candidates to effectively have more voting power than those who support major party candidates changed the outcome of Maine's 2nd District campaign. Now, Democratic state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) will be declared the victor by just under 3,000 votes, as the second and third choices from the voters who supported the two independent candidates were factored in to the major party totals. The incumbent, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) has already filed a lawsuit against the instant run-off procedure.

MD-6:  Democratic businessman David Trone (D) won the open district campaign last Tuesday, but just after his victory a federal court ruled that his congressional district boundaries constitute an illegal gerrymander. Should the ruling hold through the Appellate courts, the legislature will be forced to re-draw the seat, and any adjacent districts that the new boundaries affect. Thinking that the district may become more Republican, state Delegate Neil Parrott (R-Funkstown/ Hagerstown) announced that he is forming a 2020 congressional exploratory committee in order to possibly launch a federal campaign at a later date.

North Carolina:  Democrats will end the decade again filing suit against the North Carolina congressional and state legislative maps, as they have done consistently since 2011. Even when they were successful in forcing a re-draw, the NC congressional map did not improve upon the 10R-3D split that Democrats have been attempting in vain to change.

Their chances are now considerably better. Armed with a new 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court, the Democrats filed suit this week emulating the Pennsylvania strategy of challenging under the state constitution. The US Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to such a Pennsylvania lawsuit last year, thus opening the door for other similar legal maneuvers. The North Carolina Democrats are the first to make the subsequent move.

NC-9:  Another close congressional was called, this one in the Charlotte, NC area. Here, Baptist former pastor Mark Harris (R) looks to have clinched about a 2,000-vote victory over businessman Dan McCready (D). It appeared that Mr. McCready was well positioned to score an upset, especially immediately after the May primary when Mr. Harris denied three-term Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) re-nomination. In electing a Republican, it appears this district defied the national trend.

TX-23:  The TX-23 campaign result has been the most difficult to read. On election night, Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) had been projected as the winner. Later in the evening, the projection was rescinded, only to be later reinstated. Now, with Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones challenging some ballots, the race appears to be undecided once again. The current count stands with Rep. Hurd holding an 1,150 vote edge over Ms. Jones from over 209,000 votes cast.

UT-4:  In a lead for congressional challenger Ben McAdams (D), the Salt Lake County Mayor, that had grown almost to 9,000 votes, Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) appeared in grave danger of losing the congressional seat that she has represented for four years. But, post-election counting from the rural areas has seen her storm back, and she is now within 1,229 votes of Mr. McAdams. At this point, Ms. Love is filing a lawsuit to halt the remaining counting so further signature verification can begin of each mailed ballot. Approximately 40,000 votes remain uncounted. Models are present suggesting that each candidate could ultimately win, but the more likely victor remains Mr. McAdams.


Florida:  Continuing the Florida recount story (see Florida Senate above), the Governor's race is much closer to concluding. The statewide recount, sans Palm Beach County, now finds former US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) leading Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) by 33,683 votes. Since this race did not fall within ¼ percent after the recount, the three-member county canvassing process will not occur. Therefore, after Sunday, DeSantis will likely be declared the unofficial winner pending lawsuit resolution.

Kentucky:  Now that the 2018 midterm elections are behind us, potential office seekers are now turning their attention toward 2019. The Kentucky Governor's race will be on the ballot next year with Gov. Matt Bevin (R) presumably seeking re-election to a second term. He has already drawn opposition from Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), son of former Gov. Steve Beshear (D), now has company in the Democratic primary. State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) announced his gubernatorial campaign this Wednesday, and others are expected to join.

Louisiana:  Attorney General and former US Congressman Jeff Landry (R), who appeared to be preparing a challenge to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) next year, announced late this week that he will seek re-election to his current position. The move sends yet another signal that Sen. John Kennedy (R) will enter the race. Earlier in the week, Mr. Landry said he would not run for Governor if Mr. Kennedy chose to become a candidate.

The Senator has said he will make his political plans known before December 1st, but all indications now point to him running for Governor. Not having to run for re-election until 2022, Mr. Kennedy does not have to risk his Senate seat in order to run in a 2019 statewide campaign.