The states with the highest and lowest turnout in 2012, in 2 charts

March 12, 2013

Amid all of the uncertainty in politics, we know at least this much: Elections are all about turnout.

Which is why we were very excited to see a new and comprehensive study from Nonprofit Vote, a nonpartisan origination that works with nonprofits to encourage voter participation. The study, which you can read in its entirety on the group's Web site, includes a breakdown of 2012 turnout rates in all 50 states and the District. The percentages were calculated by dividing the number of ballots cast by the voting eligible population.

Here is the relevant the data, as presented in the report, which includes many other interesting findings. Below the charts, we provide a few observations. (Click on the charts for larger images.)

Some observations:

* President Obama won 17 of the top 20 states with the highest turnout. Mitt Romney carried North Carolina, Montana, and Missouri.

* Minnesota, which has a history of high turnout, once again led the way, with a better than 76 percent turnout rate. Hawaii was the state with the lowest turnout rate, with less than half of eligible voters (44.5 percent) casting ballots.

* The report zeroes in on two overarching factors that boost voter participation: An Election Day registration option and swing state status. The latter point is pretty self-evident -- the states up for grabs where candidates spend their time and money are likely to attract stronger turnout. And as to Election Day registration, it's a reflection that voters are really utilizing the option, where available. Of the nine jurisdictions where Election Day registration was an option last year, seven placed in the top 20 in overall turnout, including Minnesota.

* In only four states (Utah, Colorado, Wisconsin and Massachusetts), plus the District, was the turnout rate higher in 2012 than it was in 2008. In Iowa, it was unchanged. Turnout fell everywhere else.

* The disparity between the state with the highest turnout, and the state with the lowest turnout, is quite large. Minnesota's turnout rate was about 32 percent higher than Hawaii's.

* Nevada is interesting, because it is a swing state, but is in the bottom 15 in overall turnout. The bottom 15 states in the report also include the three most populous ones, California, Texas and New York. None of the three were competitive at the presidential level.

Other observations or thoughts? The comments section awaits!

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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