Almost 58 percent of Virginia citizens voted in the midterm elections, up nearly 16 percentage points from the last midterm in 2014, and one of the highest jumps of any state, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau released last month.
The state’s youngest citizens aged 18 to 24 had among the sharpest increases in participation, rising from roughly 17 percent participation in 2014 to nearly 40 percent in 2018 -- a spike of over 140 percent. That rise was almost equaled by Millennials aged 25 to 34.
Those increases hew to national trends, with voter turnout among 18-to-29-year-olds jumping 79 percent since 2014 across the country, according to data from Current Population Survey’s Voting and Registration Supplement.
Virginia ranked 14th among all states and Washington, D.C. in terms of percentage of citizens voting in the 2018 midterm. But the state’s nearly 16 percent rise from 2014 was among the sharpest of any state; only Utah, Arizona, New Jersey, and Missouri had higher increases, according to an analysis from Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Although all ages and racial groups turned out in greater numbers than 2014, black Virginia citizens saw the sharpest increase among any racial group. Their participation rose from 34 percent to 56 percent from 2014 to 2018.
Elliott Fullmer, an associate professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College who studies voter participation, said the state’s rise in engagement was largely attributable to a far more competitive slate of 2018 House of Representative races compared to 2014, when turnout sagged across the country.
“All of the sudden in places that weren’t accustomed to an election that really mattered, they were getting door knocks, phone calls, and a lot of mobilization,” Fullmer said.
Courtsey of The Virginia Public Access Project.
Democratic-leaning groups already had infrastructure in place from the 2017 state elections, Fullmer said, and used it to mobilize non-white and younger voters that help make up the party’s base.
“Furthermore, they’re mobilized in their own right, because these are populations that have high disapproval of President Trump, and this is really their first opportunity to speak out and change the composition of the federal government,” Fullmer said.
It's unclear whether left-leaning groups can sustain their momentum this November, with control of the state legislature hanging in the balance.