Decades of data demonstrate that voter turnout tends to be highest in presidential years and lowest in odd-numbered years.
In many jurisdictions, this is when local elections are held.
This year showed a continuation of that trend. In this month’s August Top Two election, voter turnout ended up at 29.72%. That’s not the worst it’s ever been, but it’s a far cry from the robust participation our democracy needs to be healthy.
Less than a year ago, Washington saw some of the best turnouts it has ever seen, with a record set in the August 2020 Top Two election and a near-record set in the November 2020 general election. The huge falloff from presidential to local years is a known problem that we’ve been living with for a decade.
The simplest permanent solution to it is phasing out odd year elections, a cause NPI has been working on in the Washington State Legislature for several years.
But there are other measures we could be pursuing as well.
Boosting voter turnout and combating election fatigue is the topic of this month’s episode of PNWcurrents, NPI’s uniquely regional podcast, which I am thrilled and honored to host. You can listen to it on demand using the player below. You can also download it to listen anywhere using your favorite podcasting app or service.
Want to read the transcript and get more details on the episode’s production?
Just launch the dedicated page for Episode III!
Presented in a panel format, PNWcurrents brings together thinkers, activists, elected representatives, and topical experts to have constructive conversations about local and regional politics, policy, major issues, and ideas that impact the Pacific Northwest. It’s a forum for perceptive discourse like no other.
Joining me for Episode III are:
Representative Mia Gregerson, a member of the Washington House of Representatives representing the 33rd District. Mia is the former Chair of the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee, and was the prime sponsor of House Bill 2529 in 2020, a bill that sought to phase out odd-year elections. Mia is planning on reintroducing this legislation.
Representative Ilana Rubel, the Democratic Minority Leader of the Idaho House of Representatives, where she has served for eight years. She recently introduced H 55 to the Idaho legislature, a bill that would provide for automatic voter registration at driver’s licensing offices.
Representative Dan Rayfield, a member of the Oregon House of Representatives representing House District 16, where he has served since 2014. Dan has worked on several successful pieces of voter-friendly legislation, including Oregon’s 2016 Motor Voter Act and, this year, House Bill 3291, which lets voters return a ballot using the Postal Service through Election Day by eliminating the requirement that ballots be in election officials’ custody by 8 PM on Election Night.
Because PNWcurrents is a podcast available on demand, you can listen to episodes anytime: while gardening, while jogging, while running errands, while working on a home improvement project, or on your way to drop off your ballot in an upcoming local election…the choice is yours!
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Thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoy Episode III!