What US Elections Saw the Highest Voter Turnout Rates?

What US Elections Saw the Highest Voter Turnout Rates?

Most modern presidential elections in the United States have a voter turnout rate of between 50 and 60 percent. Yet voter turnout rates have fluctuated throughout the country’s history based on who has the right to vote, whether people who have the right to vote are actually able to vote and how high voters perceive the stakes of an election to be. In the earliest U.S. presidential elections, only a very narrow field of Americans were able to cast votes. The 2020 election saw the biggest voter turnout rate in over a century.

Highest Voter Turnout Rate Ever in 1870s

The lowest voter turnout rate for a presidential race was in 1792, when electors from 15 states voted unanimously to re-elect George Washington for a second term. The states varied in how they selected electors to vote for the president. In states where electors were chosen by popular vote, the only people who were eligible to vote were white men, and, in some cases, only property-owning white men. That year, a paltry 6.3 percent of that narrow field of eligible voters, or roughly 28,000 people, voted.

The first time presidential voter turnout surpassed 50 percent was in 1828, when Andrew Jackson beat incumbent John Quincy Adams. After that, it trended upwards, peaking in the late 19th century.

The highest voter turnout rate for a presidential race was in 1876, when 82.6 percent of eligible voters (white and Black men) cast ballots in the race between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Despite the high turnout—Black men had recently won the right to vote with the 15th Amendment—Southern Democrats were actively suppressing that right.

The outgoing president was Republican Ulysses S. Grant, a former Union general who had successfully broken up the terrorist Ku Klux Klan, but whose administration was filled with scandals. During this era, northern voters and southern Black male voters generally favored the Republican Party, while southern white men, angered at Reconstruction reforms that had given political power to Black men, favored the Democratic Party.

Historian Eric Foner has said that without voter suppression, Republican candidate Hayes probably would have easily won the popular vote. Instead, election returns showed that he’d lost the popular vote with 47.9 percent compared to Tilden’s 50.9 percent, but that he’d won the Electoral College by just one elector.

When Democrats contested 19 of Hayes’ electoral votes, the U.S. Congress got involved. Hayes was able to keep these electors and become president by promising Democrats that he would end Reconstruction. After Hayes ended Reconstruction in 1877, southern states immediately began passing laws preventing Black men from voting and constructing a system of segregation that would become known as Jim Crow.

READ MORE: How the 1876 Election Tested the Constitution and Effectively Ended Reconstruction

Voter Turnout Rates Decrease in the 20th Century

Every presidential election with a voter turnout rate of 80 percent or higher took place in the mid- to late-19th century. They include William Henry Harrison’s 1840 election, Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election, Ulysses S. Grant’s 1868 election, James A. Garfield’s 1880 election and Benjamin Harrison’s 1888 election. These were years of intense partisan divide, especially over slavery and civil rights for Black Americans.

In the 20th century, voter turnout peaked during the very first presidential election. In 1900, the year that Republican William McKinley won reelection, the voter turnout was 73.7 percent. After that, the turnout rate never rose above 65.7 percent, which was the rate for the 1908 election in which Republican William Howard Taft won. This downward trend is at least partly due to the fact that even as the pool of eligible voters increased during the 20th century, new rules and restrictions made voting increasingly difficult for many of them.

In 1920, white women all over the country and Black women who lived in northern states won the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. Yet in the south, white Americans prevented Black women from exercising their constitutional right to vote the same way they’d been preventing Black men from doing so. In addition, the 19th Amendment didn’t address the fact that Asian and Native Americans couldn’t vote.

READ MORE: Native Americans Weren't Guaranteed the Right to Vote in Every State Until 1962

Over the next several decades, activists sought to change this. By the 1960s, Black, Asian and Native Americans won a series of federal and state battles securing their right to vote. In 1961, residents of Washington, D.C., won the right to vote for president with the 23rd Amendment; and in 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the federal voting age from 21 to 18, allowing more young people to cast their ballots in presidential elections.

READ MORE: How the Vietnam War Draft Spurred the Fight to Lower the Legal Voting Age

In 2013, a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had given the federal government the power to review voting laws and practices in states with a history of voter suppression. As a result, many states began introducing practices like purging voters from voting rolls, closing polling places and passing voter ID laws.

Despite these changes, the share of the voting-eligible population that cast ballots in the subsequent 2016 election reached 60.2 percent—the third highest since 1972. That compares with 58.6 percent of eligible voters who turned out in 2012, but it’s under the 62.2 percent who voted in 2008 when Barack Obama won his first term in office.


Voter turnout in US presidential elections by ethnicity 1964-2016

CharacteristicNational averageWhiteBlackAsianHispanicWhite non-Hispanic***
2016 56 % 58.2 % 55.9 % 33.9 % 32.5 % 64.1 %
2012 56.5 % 57.6 % 62 % 31.3 % 31.8 % 63 %
2008 58.2 % 59.6 % 60.8 % 32.1 % 31.6 % 64.8 %
2004 58.3 % 60.3 % 56.3 % 29.8 % 28 % 65.8 %
2000 54.7 % 56.4 % 53.5 % 25.4 % 27.5 % 60.4 %
1996 54.2 % 56 % 50.6 % 25.7 % 26.8 % 59.6 %
1992 61.3 % 63.6 % 54.1 % 27.3 % 28.9 % 66.9 %
1988 57.4 % 59.1 % 51.5 % -28.8 % 61.8 %
1984 59.9 % 61.4 % 55.8 % -32.7 % 63.3 %
1980 59.3 % 60.9 % 50.5 % -29.9 % 62.8 %
1976 59.2 % 60.9 % 48.7 % -31.8 % -
1972 63 % 64.5 % 52.1 % -37.5 % -
1968 67.8 % 69.1 % 57.6 % ---
1964 69.3 % 70.7 % 58.5 % ---

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*Voter turnout figures relate to the share of eligible voters who take part in the election, and does not represent the share of the entire population (for example, under-18's, non-citizens, felons (rules vary)).
Residents in US overseas territories are eligible to vote in general elections, but may not vote in the presidential election.

**Prior to 2004, data regarding to Asian voters included Pacific Islanders, therefore subsequent data may not be comparable with earlier numbers.

***Non-Hispanic whites are defined as European Americans, Middle Eastern Americans, and North African Americans, who do not have Hispanic ancestry. Their data is also included in the "White"category.

Note: Prior to 1972, data is for people 21 to 24 years of age with the exception of those aged 18 to 24 in Georgia and Kentucky, 19 to 24 in Alaska, and 20 to 24 in Hawaii. In 1972 the minimum voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 for all states with the passage of the Twenty-sixth Amendment,

Age of US Presidents when first taking office 1789-2021

Number of votes cast in U.S. presidential elections 1824-2020

Share of popular votes for major parties in US presidential elections 1860-2020

Share of electoral and popular votes by each United States president 1789-2020


US elections 2020 witnessed highest voter turnout in 120 years

Washington, Nov 06: The 2020 US presidential election has recorded the highest voter turnout in 120 years, a prominent electoral expert has said.

According to preliminary estimates of the US Election project, a nonpartisan site that tracks voting, an estimated 239 million people were eligible to vote this year, of which nearly 160 million exercised their right to franchise. The figure is likely to be updated in the coming weeks.

The November 3 election saw a record voter turnout of 66.9 per cent, which is the highest turnout rate since 1900. The 1900 election had recorded 73.7 per cent voter turnout, it said.

"The 2020 presidential election had the highest turnout rate in 120 years. There is still a fair amount of guesswork involving outstanding ballots to be counted," said Michael P McDonald, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Florida, who leads the US Election Project.

In 2016, US had registered 56 per cent voter turnout, while it was 58 per cent in 2008.

Minnesota and Maine, as per the US Election Project, this year had the highest turnout of 79.2 per cent each, followed by Iowa at 78.6 per cent.

Maine and Iowa was won by President Donald Trump and Minnesota by his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Other States which polled more than 70 per cent voter turnout were Colorado (77.1 per cent), Connecticut (71.1 per cent), Delaware (70.8 per cent), Florida (72.9 per cent), Maryland (72.2 per cent), Massachusetts (73.4 per cent), Michigan (73.5 per cent) and Montana (72.3 per cent).

Arkansas recorded the lowest turnout of 56.1 per cent, as per the preliminary estimates.

The Time magazine said the above-average voter turnout rate in 2020 is noteworthy as the US usually has some of the worst turnout rates in the world.

In a Pew Research ranking of voter turnout in the most recent nationwide elections, the US is placed at 30th position out of 35 nations.

The highest voter turnout since 120 was reflected in a high vote support to both Biden and Trump. As of Thursday afternoon, Biden had received over 72 million votes, which is eight million more than Hillary Clinton got in 2016.

Trump has so far bagged over 68.5 million votes, which is the highest Republican turnout.

According to Pew, as of 2019, non-Hispanic White Americans at 69 per cent make up the largest share of registered voters in the US. Hispanic and Black registered voters each account for 11 per cent, while those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds account for the remaining eight per cent.


President-Elect Joe Biden Hits 80 Million Votes In Year Of Record Turnout

President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 vote total shatters the 2008 record of 69.5 million votes cast for Barack Obama.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

More votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election than in any other U.S. election in history, and the turnout rate was the highest in more than a century.

President-elect Joe Biden has now earned 80 million votes, and ballots are still being counted. That is by far the most votes cast for any presidential candidate in U.S. history. President Trump holds the distinction, however, of earning the second-most votes all time. About 74 million Americans voted for him.

Biden's total shatters the 2008 record of 69.5 million votes cast for Barack Obama. The former vice president was also on that ticket as Obama's running mate.

Overall, more than 156 million Americans cast ballots in 2020, a number that will continue to climb in coming days as more results are reported. The final vote total is likely to get to about 158 million. That is more than 20 million higher than the 2016 record of 137 million votes cast.

The turnout rate is estimated to be 66.5% of eligible voters, the highest since 1900, according to the United States Elections Project.

These are remarkable figures with voting taking place in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has led to statewide lockdowns and more than 250,000 Americans dead in less than nine months. It also significantly reduced the abilities of campaigns to do in-person door knocking and voter registration ahead of the election.

As the coronavirus became more widespread, most states adjusted their voting rules, including broadening access to early voting. As a result, some two-thirds of voters cast their ballots early, far surpassing 2016 rates.

The sky-high turnout is due, in part, to the expanded mail-in voting. Traditionally, states that predominantly use voting by mail have higher participation rates than other states because of the reduced obstacle of waiting in line in person.


States that had the highest 2020 voter turnout

The election of 2020 will be one that many Americans won’t soon forget. Millions of voters tuned into cable and broadcast news networks on Nov. 3, ready to dissect maps, blue states and red states, and the possibilities of swings when major precincts reported results. However, with unprecedented voter turnout and millions of more mail-in ballots to record than usual, election results took days to tally, and America went to sleep on election night unsure of the winner of the presidential race.

The 2020 election was unlike any other in American history. There were the polarized policies of progressives and conservatives, but the coronavirus pandemic was the primary cause for changing the dynamics of this voting season. With many states enforcing strict stay-at-home policies and scores of Americans not wanting to risk the spread or infection of COVID-19, many more people than usual voted by mail, drop boxes, or at polling stations before the actual Election Day.

As a result, many states saw record-high turnouts. Using data from the U.S. Elections Project—ballot totals last updated Dec. 7, 2020, Stacker compiled data on voter turnout in every state, including early voting and mail-in ballot voting. Each state and Washington D.C. was ranked on the total ballots counted out of the voter-eligible population. The early voting and mail-in ballot data was taken from state election websites as of Nov. 23, but may not reflect final vote counts if the state did not report that information. Additionally, some states do not differentiate between early in-person ballots and mail-in ballots.

Despite the large turnout, many states still have improvements to be made. Decisions on whether or not early balloting will be accepted on such a wide scale going forward is a key concern in several battleground states, while some states in the South drew criticism for what progressives view as arcane rules around registering. All that data and more is included, so click through to find out where your state ranked nationwide in 2020 voter turnout.

- Total ballots counted: 1,565,000 (55% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,845,835
- Total ballots cast early: 448,070
--- Early in-person ballots: 167,185
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 280,885
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

In recent elections, Oklahoma has been last in the nation in voter turnout. Voting experts have criticized the state for not ensuring as many people vote as possible, and Oklahoma’s status as essentially being a one-party state—heavily Republican—likely doesn’t help matters. An online registration system was approved by the state legislature, but has not been implemented.

- Total ballots counted: 1,223,675 (56.1% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,182,375
- Total ballots cast early: 912,688
--- Early in-person ballots: 794,394
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 118,294
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Cleveland County had the highest percentage of voter turnout at 77.77%, while only 43.1% of voters came out in Scott County, the lowest percentage in the state. Experts said one reason for the low voter turnout was that major races in the state were not competitive.

- Total ballots counted: 579,784 (57.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,007,920
- Total ballots cast early: 551,036
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 551,036
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

While more of Hawaii’s citizens turned out for the general election than ever before, the numbers compared to national percentages are not breathtaking. The state did undertake a campaign to encourage residents to vote early, and a majority of voters sent in ballots by mail. Some voters had to wait in line for six hours to vote on Election Day.

- Total ballots counted: 802,726 (57.6% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,394,028
- Total ballots cast early: 145,127
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 145,127
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Absentee ballots were high in West Virginia, and only in the 1960 presidential election did more residents vote. Almost half of all votes were recorded before Election Day, but several county clerks rejected the idea of expanding absentee ballot voting.

- Total ballots counted: 3,065,000 (59.8% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 5,124,867
- Total ballots cast early: 2,280,767
--- Early in-person ballots: 2,070,339
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 210,428
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Tennessee has challenges to overcome in achieving a higher voter turnout. It is one of the few states that request racial identification on a voter registration application. Some in Tennessee also believe voting rights restoration for felons needs fixing.

- Total ballots counted: 1,325,000 (60.2% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,201,950
- Total ballots cast early: 231,031
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 231,031
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Wait times of over three hours hampered some polling locations in Mississippi. Still, that didn’t prevent Black residents in certain parts of Mississippi to vote in record numbers.

- Total ballots counted: 11,350,000 (60.4% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 18,784,280
- Total ballots cast early: 9,705,090
--- Early in-person ballots: 8,767,535
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 937,555
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Texas Democrats hoped a higher voter turnout would swing their state blue, but that was not the case. The state had to deal with lawsuits to throw out 127,000 early ballots, and studies have shown Texas to have one of the country’s most restrictive voting environments. Some lawmakers are trying to pass new voter accessibility bills to increase future turnouts.

- Total ballots counted: 928,230 (61.3% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,515,355
- Total ballots cast early: 788,175
--- Early in-person ballots: 467,709
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 320,466
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

New Mexico experienced a growing divide between urban and rural voters, causing bigger turnouts than normal. Democrats are increasingly gaining strength in the state’s urban centers. New Mexico is one of the states where President Trump filed an election lawsuit, claiming there was illegal use of ballot drop boxes.

- Total ballots counted: 3,068,542 (61.4% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 5,000,007
- Total ballots cast early: 1,834,992
--- Early in-person ballots: 1,328,039
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 506,953
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

For the first time in Indiana history, more than 3 million voters cast ballots in an election. About 60% of those ballots were absentee, and while the state’s overall number is low nationwide, for the first time this century every Indiana county reported a turnout of over 50%.

- Total ballots counted: 2,325,000 (63.1% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 3,683,055
- Total ballots cast early: 300,402
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 300,402
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Republicans drove Alabama’s record-high voter turnout. As opposed to many states, Alabama still relied heavily on in-person voting, although absentee ballots were used at a record pace. Alabama is one of two states that requires residents to mark their race on voter registration forms.

- Total ballots counted: 8,661,735 (63.4% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 13,670,596
- Total ballots cast early: 3,743,745
--- Early in-person ballots: 2,507,341
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,236,404
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

New York, a state that had some of the most stringent COVID-19 protections in place, voted in record numbers through early voting methods. The state unleashed a heavy ad blitz to encourage voters to vote early and absentee. In a move that might further increase New York’s turnout numbers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo just signed a law to automatically enable voter registration.

- Total ballots counted: 346,491 (64.1% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 540,685
- Total ballots cast early: 305,410
--- Early in-person ballots: 68,914
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 236,496
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Voters in Washington D.C. took advantage of early voting, with some polling places reporting no lines for waiting. On the first day of early in-person voting, approximately 20,000 residents voted. Eligible first-time voters could register in-person up through Election Day.

- Total ballots counted: 364,251 (64.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 565,143
- Total ballots cast early: 273,103
--- Early in-person ballots: 87,902
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 185,201
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

After the election, some outlets reported that Native American voter turnout in North Dakota was not as high as in other states. Amid complaints about access, some legislators are trying to increase voting access for future elections.

- Total ballots counted: 2,533,010 (64.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 3,926,305
- Total ballots cast early: 1,334,000
--- Early in-person ballots: 893,000
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 441,000
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

South Carolina has some of the most stringent voting rules in the nation—with Alabama, it’s one of only two states to make voters list their race when registering. South Carolina did allow curbside voting and for voters to list COVID-19 as a universal excuse for an absentee ballot.

- Total ballots counted: 278,503 (64.6% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 431,364
- Total ballots cast early: 131,516
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 131,516
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Wyoming made some notable improvements, like mailing absentee ballots to every voter. Native Americans were allowed to use a tribal ID to vote, but Wyoming remained the only state that necessitated a notarized form to register, which can’t be done online.

- Total ballots counted: 2,180,000 (64.6% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 3,373,932
- Total ballots cast early: 977,408
--- Early in-person ballots: 817,965
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 159,443
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Louisiana begrudgingly began to recognize the efficacy of mail-in ballots, as the state recorded a record turnout. However, in a less encouraging sign in turnout numbers, Louisiana’s runoff elections struggled to attract voters.

- Total ballots counted: 2,150,954 (64.9% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 3,312,250
- Total ballots cast early: 1,508,000
--- Early in-person ballots: 933,000
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 575,000
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Areas like Fayette County stressed the importance of early voting, which lessened long lines at many polling places. Anderson County had the highest percentage of turnout at 70.55%, while Christian County recorded a Kentucky low at 42.74%. The state was criticized for inconsistent methods for counting and recording mail-in ballots.

- Total ballots counted: 1,407,754 (65.4% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,153,915
- Total ballots cast early: 1,268,851
--- Early in-person ballots: 578,303
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 690,548
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Nevada is another state where President Trump’s attempts to block voting results were denied. Voting advocates have long tried to get the state to create an independent redistricting commission to redraw legislative boundaries. Elko and Douglas counties had the highest turnouts at 82.1%.

- Total ballots counted: 525,000 (65.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 799,642
- Total ballots cast early: 305,724
--- Early in-person ballots: 149,546
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 156,178
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Rhode Island had its most voters since 2008, with almost 60% of voters casting ballots before Election Day. Jamestown had one of the highest turnouts in the state, with around 75% of eligible voters casting ballots.

- Total ballots counted: 1,375,125 (65.9% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,087,946
- Total ballots cast early: 770,324
--- Early in-person ballots: 348,220
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 422,104
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Kansas setup 24-hour drop boxes for voters to cast their ballots. Other early voting methods led to a solid turnout, but numbers can still go up the American Civil Liberties Union is specifically targeting Kansas to increase turnouts in future elections.

- Total ballots counted: 3,420,565 (65.9% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 5,189,000
- Total ballots cast early: 2,664,687
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 2,664,687
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

In the Phoenix area, “get out the vote” efforts encouraged eligible voters to cast ballots early. Protestors and activists also played a role in higher turnouts, as did strong numbers of Native American voters.

- Total ballots counted: 427,529 (66% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 648,104
- Total ballots cast early: 308,808
--- Early in-person ballots: 92,668
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 216,140
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

In 2020, about two times the amount of voters cast absentee ballots in South Dakota compared to 2016. In some of the state’s major cities, the nonprofit IllumiNatives erected billboards encouraging Native Americans to vote.

- Total ballots counted: 3,050,000 (66.3% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 4,603,060
- Total ballots cast early: 827,978
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 827,978
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

For the first time in Missouri history, election turnout surpassed the 3 million mark. There are policy proposals to add early voting in the state, but critical voices said that implementation would come at a cost. One fix would be adding “no-excuse” absentee voting.

- Total ballots counted: 6,050,000 (67% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 9,027,082
- Total ballots cast early: 3,591,646
--- Early in-person ballots: 1,832,401
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,759,245
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Illinois is trending upward, as the total ballots cast surpassed the previous record set in 2016. About two-thirds of Illinois residents cast ballots early or by absentee ballot, with election agencies appealing to voters to find alternate methods to in-person Election Day voting.

- Total ballots counted: 5,974,121 (67.4% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 8,859,167
- Total ballots cast early: 3,000,827
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 3,000,827
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Before Election Day, politicians in Ohio and Michigan placed a bet on which state would have the higher voter turnout. Michigan won, and several Ohio politicians said their state’s turnout was a “disappointment.” Cuyahoga County reported long lines on Election Day.

- Total ballots counted: 875,000 (67.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,292,701
- Total ballots cast early: 402,310
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 402,310
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

In October, Idaho was already reporting an onslaught of absentee ballots. Ada County was one of the areas to set a new precedent for turnout. This past summer, Idaho also had a record-high turnout for primary elections.

- Total ballots counted: 5,000,511 (67.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 7,383,562
- Total ballots cast early: 4,011,822
--- Early in-person ballots: 2,694,879
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,316,943
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

The eyes of the country will be on Georgia in early January, as the state holds a runoff election for important U.S. Senate seats. The size of the turnout could be an early predictor if Democrats or Republicans will pick up two seats in the general election, Georgia reported a record-breaking turnout. Georgia was the first state to offer automatic voter registration, at least 16 days of early voting, and no-excuse absentee voting.

- Total ballots counted: 17,783,784 (68.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 25,962,648
- Total ballots cast early: 12,090,534
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 12,090,534
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

California just had its largest voter turnout since 1952. Sonoma County had the highest percentage of voters with 90.7% Imperial County’s 67.7% was the lowest in the state. Low-income and diverse voters fueled the state’s big turnout.

- Total ballots counted: 361,400 (68.8% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 525,568
- Total ballots cast early: 205,597
--- Early in-person ballots: 80,915
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 124,682
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Alaska just had its highest voter turnout in history. Alaskans approved revamped ranked voting systems for primaries, which could boost future turnouts.

- Total ballots counted: 1,515,845 (69.2% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,191,487
- Total ballots cast early: 1,124,206
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,124,206
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Utah had its best voter turnout ever, with Wayne County reporting the top numbers in the state. Politicians are hoping to introduce ranked-choice voting to the Beehive State.

- Total ballots counted: 966,920 (69.9% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,383,551
- Total ballots cast early: 482,919
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 482,919
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Thirty-four counties in Nebraska had turnouts over 80%, as the state set a record for voter turnout. Nebraska also set a voter registration record. There were some concerns in the state as election commissioners had to downplay claims of voter fraud, and there were reports that more than 25,000 early ballots weren’t returned.

- Total ballots counted: 509,241 (70.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 720,531
- Total ballots cast early: 148,424
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 148,424
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

After Delaware set voter turnout records, lawmakers in Joe Biden’s home state are trying to ramp up future voter turnout. Delaware is trying to institute same-day voter registration, align state primaries with national primaries, and eliminate absentee ballot limitations.

- Total ballots counted: 3,050,000 (70.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 4,313,416
- Total ballots cast early: 2,514,489
--- Early in-person ballots: 987,029
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,527,460
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Maryland broke records for early voting, with mail-in ballots accounting for almost half the votes in the state. Maryland offered same-day registration for voters who missed the early voting period.

- Total ballots counted: 6,950,000 (71% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 9,781,976
- Total ballots cast early: 2,629,672
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 2,629,672
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Pennsylvania is a rarity in not providing race-specific data of voter turnout. The pandemic and partisan attacks hampered mail-in voting in this battleground state, and Pennsylvania is considering an overhaul in the election of judges.

- Total ballots counted: 5,545,847 (71.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 7,759,051
- Total ballots cast early: 4,597,717
--- Early in-person ballots: 3,620,531
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 977,186
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Alexander, Ashe, and Lincoln Counties all had turnouts over 80%, contributing to a 6% bump in voter turnout statewide. Still, despite a high turnout, Democrats were stumped on how Joe Biden did not win North Carolina.

- Total ballots counted: 1,861,086 (71.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,603,327
- Total ballots cast early: 636,000
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 636,000
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Connecticut turnout in 2020 topped all past elections, with the previous high coming in 2004. Some in Connecticut are calling for permanent measures for easier access to absentee and mail-in ballots.

- Total ballots counted: 11,144,855 (71.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 15,551,739
- Total ballots cast early: 9,187,898
--- Early in-person ballots: 4,332,221
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 4,855,677
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

There was no controversy over hanging chads this year in Florida, but surprises occurred nonetheless. Large turnouts of Cuban voters near Miami, and Latino enclaves near Orlando kept the state red. The big turnout may have one repercussion, as now more signatures will be needed to put issues on future ballots.

- Total ballots counted: 3,658,005 (72.1% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 5,072,901
- Total ballots cast early: 2,352,945
--- Early in-person ballots: 968,491
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,384,454
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

After the success of mail-in voting in Massachusetts, the method will extend to spring elections. Many in the state attribute record voter turnouts to mail-in votes, and are pushing for the permanence of being able to sign, seal, and send in a ballot.

- Total ballots counted: 4,523,142 (73% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 6,196,071
- Total ballots cast early: 2,828,483
--- Early in-person ballots: 1,861,444
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 967,039
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Early voting options were a huge hit in Virginia, with previous records being smashed three weeks before Election Day. In regard to overall voting, rural areas came out in droves—many voting for Donald Trump, even though Joe Biden still won the state.

- Total ballots counted: 612,075 (73.1% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 837,298
- Total ballots cast early: 604,042
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 604,042
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Montana surpassed voter turnout numbers before Election Day, with most counties prioritizing voting by mail. The state’s overall turnout was its highest since 1972.

- Total ballots counted: 1,700,130 (73.2% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 2,321,131
- Total ballots cast early: 996,981
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 996,981
- Winning presidential candidate: Donald Trump

Fourteen Iowa counties had turnouts of over 80%, contributing to an overall state record. Every county surpassed 65%—Harrison County’s 87.5% was top—and Iowa also posted record numbers for its June primaries.

- Total ballots counted: 5,579,317 (73.9% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 7,550,147
- Total ballots cast early: 2,841,696
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 2,841,696
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Michigan voter turnout was so high that some trying to claim election fraud said numbers surpassed 100%. One person claimed Detroit had a voter turnout over 139%, while official results had the tally at just over 50%. In more factual stats, Michigan did post a higher voter turnout percentage than Ohio, winning an informal bet between politicians representing the Midwest rivals.

- Total ballots counted: 370,968 (74.2% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 499,884
- Total ballots cast early: 280,455
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 280,455
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

About three weeks before Election Day, Vermont was already reporting record numbers of early ballots cast. Eventually, more than 80% of repeat voters from 2016 cast early ballots, and all active voters were mailed a ballot before Nov. 3. There were some unfounded accusations of voter fraud.

- Total ballots counted: 4,575,000 (74.3% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 6,158,999
- Total ballots cast early: 3,658,460
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 3,658,460
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

New Jersey took full advantage of mail-in ballots, with a majority of voters choosing to send in their votes. The high turnout showed Republicans making some inroads in a traditionally blue state, and many residents now approve of permanently increasing options for voting.

- Total ballots counted: 814,499 (75.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,079,434
- Total ballots cast early: 260,217
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 260,217
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Almost one-third of New Hampshire residents sent in absentee ballots, leading to a record turnout. Manchester and Nashua, the state’s largest cities, each had over 14,000 absentee ballots, and more than 60 communities reported over 1,000 absentee ballots. Many of the voters that did come out on Election Day had to brave a snowstorm.

- Total ballots counted: 2,413,914 (75.5% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 3,196,425
- Total ballots cast early: 2,155,350
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 2,155,350
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Stacey Abrams recently said Oregon is the closest to having an ideal system for voting and more improvements could still be coming. Oregon is considering same-day registration and more ballot drop boxes for future elections, as well as ballots postmarked up to Election Day and automatic registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

- Total ballots counted: 4,116,894 (75.7% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 5,437,844
- Total ballots cast early: 3,545,289
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 3,545,289
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Washington allows same-day voter registration and many residents were able to become eligible to vote last minute. The state fell just short of its record of 84.6% turnout set in 2008, but encouraging signs were found in that 32 of 39 counties had a turnout above 80%.

- Total ballots counted: 3,310,000 (75.8% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 4,368,530
- Total ballots cast early: 1,957,514
--- Early in-person ballots: 651,422
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,306,092
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

As a swing state embroiled in claims of voter fraud, there were some reports that Wisconsin’s turnout jumped 22%. While not true, the state had a record turnout thanks to initiatives like voter education and outreach. However, Wisconsin still has a ways to go in combating narratives that disenfranchise voters of color.

- Total ballots counted: 828,305 (76.3% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 1,085,285
- Total ballots cast early: 514,429
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 514,429
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Although more than half of the votes submitted in Maine were by mail-in ballots, many residents still decided to go in-person on Election Day. The Maine Center for Disease Control reported no outbreaks related to in-person voting, and the state touted its sanitizing methods and use of personal protective equipment at polling places. The state now faces possible redistricting in a few districts, which could alter future turnout numbers.

- Total ballots counted: 3,295,666 (76.4% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 4,313,054
- Total ballots cast early: 2,887,605
--- Early in-person ballots: 78,121
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 2,809,484
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Colorado received widespread praise for its mail-in ballot system, which has become the norm there since 2013. With a system already in place, Colorado experienced less problems with an influx of mail-in ballots. The state also has a texting system for voters experiencing voting problems and more than 370 drop boxes.

- Total ballots counted: 3,292,997 (80% of the voter-eligible population)
- Voting-eligible population: 4,118,462
- Total ballots cast early: 1,846,668
--- Early in-person ballots: data not available
--- Mail-in ballots returned: 1,846,668
- Winning presidential candidate: Joe Biden

Absentee voting was the key cog behind landing Minnesota at the #1 spot. The state’s 80% turnout rate was the highest in 60 years and some counties reported voter turnout as high as 90%. Same-day registration also boosted Minnesota’s numbers.


Voter Turnout By State 2021

Voting in state and national elections is one of the most important things we can do as adults. After all, it is voting that puts people in office – from our local officials to the president of the United States.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of their right to vote. Whether they just haven't registered, don't care about politics, don't like any of the candidates, or have some other reasons, many people don't show up at the polls come election day.

In this article, we're going to explore the total voter turnout by state for the 2020 election. We'll focus on the percentage of people by state that showed up for the last presidential election. We will focus solely on the voting-eligible population or VEP. This includes adults that are of legal voting age while excluding ineligible felons.

In the 2020 election, 159,633,396 people voted. This is the largest voter turnout in U.S. history. This is also the largest percentage of the voting-eligible population in 120 years at 66.7%. President Joe Biden received 81,283,098 votes, while former President Donald Trump won 74,222,958 votes, a difference of 7,060,140 votes. In the Electoral College, Biden received 306 over Trump's 232.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states expanded vote-by-mail to help people safely vote in the 2020 election. It is believed that the availability of mail voting helped increase overall voter turnout.

The highest voter turnout was in Minnesota, where 79.96% of the VEP voted in the presidential election. Colorado follows with 76.41% and is closely followed by Maine, where 76.32% of the VEP voted.

When it comes to the lowest voter turnout, Oklahoma ranked last with a turnout of just 54.99%%. Other states with the lowest voter turnout include Arkansas, Hawaii, West Virginia, and Tennessee, all of which had less than 60% of their VEP vote in the 2020 election.


Voter Turnout by Country

Based on data from Pew Research Center, the nation with the highest voter turnout based on the country’s last national election was Belgium. In 2014, 87.2% of the voting-age population showed up to cast their vote.

Sweden held its last election in 2014, which had a voter turnout of 82.6% of the voting-age population. In 2017, South Korea had a voter turnout of 77.9% of its voting-age population.

Coming in next on the list is Israel. In 2015, 76.1% of the eligible population cast their votes. In New Zealand, more than three-quarters of voters,75.7%, showed up at the polls in 2017.

Another nation with a high voter turnout was Germany. During its last election in 2017, 69.1% of voting-age residents cast their ballots. France also had a high voter turnout of 67.9% in 2017. In the same year, the United Kingdom had a voter turnout of 63.2%.

Canada’s last election in 2015 drew in 62.1% of voters. Spain’s election of 2016 saw 61.2% of voters making their voices heard. The United States held its last election in 2016, and only 55.7% of voters showed up. However, this is ahead of Switzerland, which had a voter turnout of 38.6% during the election of 2015.


Highest Voter Turnout Rate Ever in 1870s

The lowest voter turnout rate for a presidential race was in 1792, when the only people who could vote were white men, and some states restricted the vote to property-owning white men. That year, a paltry 6.3 percent of that narrow field of eligible voters, or roughly 28,000 people, re-elected George Washingtion. The first time presidential voter turnout surpassed 50 percent was in 1828, when Andrew Jackson beat incumbent John Quincy Adams. After that, it trended upwards, peaking in the late 19th century.

The highest voter turnout rate for a presidential race was in 1876, when 82.6 percent of eligible voters (white and Black men) cast ballots in the race between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Despite the high turnout, it was an election filled with rampant voter suppression. Black men had recently won the right to vote with the 15th Amendment, and white southern men were intent on preventing them from voting using paramilitary violence.

The outgoing president was Republican Ulysses S. Grant, a former Union general who had successfully broken up the terrorist Ku Klux Klan, but whose administration was filled with scandals. During this era, northern voters and southern Black male voters generally favored the Republican Party, while southern white men favored the Democratic Party. Angry at Reconstruction reforms that had given political power to Black men, these southern white men sought to secure a Democratic victory, sometimes using violent means.

Historian Eric Foner has said that without voter suppression, Republican candidate Hayes probably would have easily won the popular vote. Instead, election returns showed that he’d lost the popular vote with 47.9 percent compared to Tilden’s 50.9 percent, but that he’d won …read more


#5 1880 Election: James A. Garfield vs Winfield S. Hancock

Winner: James A. Garfield (Republican)

Voter turnout: 80.5 percent

Electoral votes received: 214 of 369 (58%)

Popular votes received: 4,454,416 (48.3%)

The mid-late 19th century saw multiple elections with voter turnouts above 80 percent. In 1880, James A. Garfield became the nation's 20th president, with the smallest popular vote victory in modern history. At that point, it was the highest voter turnout election in history.