North Dakota Actually Has Voter Turnout Levels Above the National Average


Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, announces his candidacy for North Dakota Secretary of State, during a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, at Abovo Events, 218 Broadway, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

State Rep. Josh Boschee, a Democrat from Fargo, has announced his campaign for Secretary of State (he’ll be joining me on my radio show tomorrow). He’s already getting in digs at Republican incumbent Al Jaeger talking about the need to modernize the office and improve its performance on things like business filings.

There’s going to be a lot of bipartisan agreement on that front. The consensus among most Republicans and Democrats in North Dakota’s political circles is that Jaeger has largely retired on the job.

But in an article yesterday Boschee makes an assertion about North Dakota voter turnout that, frankly, just isn’t accurate:

Boschee also said with voter turnout stagnant in North Dakota, more should be done to increase participation and voter education.

Stagnant is a word that means unchanging, and I suppose that’s technically accurate, but Boschee is suggesting that North Dakota’s voter turnout is too low. Actually, our state has one of the best voter turnout rates in the nation.

Here’s the voter turnout percentage for every election cycle (midterms and presidential years) going back to 2000:

Turnout has remained steady – stagnant, I suppose you could say – but we should remember that the national average for voter turnout in presidential election years is about 57 percent.

Also, based on an average of the last four presidential election cycles, the folks at 24/7 Wall Street found that North Dakota had the seventh highest voter turnout rate in the nation.

Could we improve? Sure. But we’re doing pretty well, compared to other states, and I’d argue that to the extent North Dakota’s turnout has fallen off a bit in recent cycles, it’s probably due to a lack of competitive political races.

We’ve had some hot debates over statewide ballot measures, sure, but beyond that Democrats have often run very weak candidates against the Republican candidates. They’ve even left races on the statewide ballot, not to mention legislative races, without a challenger at all.

North Dakota has very strong voter turnout rates despite a political environment that’s not very competitive. I’m not sure this is an issue we need to worry about.