Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Which elections have the largest turnout?

For an election manager, one of the hardest parts of running an election is getting the voters to actually vote! We have a previous blog post that gives some advice for increasing election turnout, but which elections are the most successful in getting voters to turn out and vote?

Without a doubt, it is high school elections!!! The graph here shows our usage for the last 4 days, and the peak there is a high school election. Many elections have turnout in the 10-25% range, but for high school elections it is usually in the 50-90% range.

Why is that? We posit a couple reasons...

First, the voters tend to know all of the candidates really well and thus don't need to do any research to know who they want to vote for. By contrast, yesterday, I voted in the primary election for Massachusetts, and I had to do quite a bit of work to identify all the offices I was able to vote for, who the candidates were, and finally what they stood for.

Takeaway: Make it super easy for the voters to understand who they are voting for. Create a web page to allow voters to get all of the information about all of the candidates. For smaller elections, you can include this in OpaVote voter emails and on the voting page, but for larger elections, we recommend you use a separate web page.

Second, the voters really care about the outcome. The class president and homecoming king/queen are important events in a high school student's life. While some of the offices I voted for yesterday were important (our Senator and Congressperson), others, in my view, shouldn't be things that we vote for. Why do we need an election for our county register of deeds?

Takeaway: Only have elections for important positions. Having a large number offices to fill (especially where many are unopposed) creates fatigue and apathy among the voters. Reducing the number of offices to vote for will increase your turnout.

In sum, if you want to increase your turnout, try to think like a high school student.