Voter turnout discouraging for Mississippians

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 8, 2014

The estimates for voter turnout from the United States Election Project have been calculated, and the numbers are not encouraging for residents of Mississippi.

According to projected statistics, only 29.7 percent of eligible voters in the state participated in Tuesday’s general elections, which puts Mississippi near the bottom of the nation’s average concerning voter turnout. Only five states – Texas, Utah, New York, Indiana and Tennessee – recorded a lower estimated percentage on the election project’s website.

While a drop off from the tightly contested presidential elections of 2012 is understandable, Mississippi also suffered a more than six percent decrease in voter turnout from the 2010 mid-term elections.

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So why did seven out of every ten eligible voters in Mississippi choose to stay home on election day, and what, if anything, can be done to improve the turnout?

For starters, it’s important to understand that the problem is not exclusive to Mississippi, and it is not a new issue. According to, voter turnout in America has always spiked during presidential election years, and then declined sharply in mid-term election years. The highest turnout rate in the last 66 years occurred in 1976 when 65 percent of eligible American voters punched a ballot. The lowest registered turnout rate in that time frame is 39 percent, which was recorded in 1974 and 1978 – the elections directly before and after the highest turnout recorded.

These numbers suggest that there is no generational trend in voter apathy, nor is there a steady decline in participation; the numbers have remained consistent throughout a large sample size.

Whether low voter turnout is the result of a prolonged political apathy or learned helplessness, it is clear that something must be done to improve these meek numbers. A true democracy will struggle to thrive if citizens fail to exercise their constitutional right to select their local and national leaders.