States with the highest voter turnout in 2016 offered same-day registration or were targeted battlegrounds in the tight presidential election, according to an analysis released Thursday by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project. The six highest-ranking states have rules that allow eligible voters to register at the polls or update their information there before casting a ballot. In order, they were: Minnesota (74.8 percent), Maine (72.8 percent), New Hampshire (72.5 percent), Colorado (72.1 percent), Wisconsin (70.5 percent), and Iowa (69 percent). All but Minnesota, the leader for the second presidential election in a row, also were targeted by the presidential candidates. This was the first report on 2016 turnout to be based on certified election returns.
Last year’s laggards were: Hawaii (43 percent), West Virginia (50.8 percent), Texas (51.6 percent), Tennessee (52 percent), and Arkansas (53.1 percent). These five states were at the bottom of the rankings for the third consecutive presidential election. None was a toss-up in the presidential race, and all cut off registration three weeks to a month before Election Day. Nationally, 60.2 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, up from the 58.6 percent who voted in 2012, the report concluded.
Turnout in states with same-day registration increased by an average of 7 percentage points compared with states that did not offer the convenience, the report found. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia allow voter registration at polling stations.
“We continue to see higher voter participation in states with same-day registration,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who directs the U.S. Elections Project, a national repository of voter statistics. “The data show clearly [it] is one of the most effective strategies states can implement to increase turnout.”