FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Across the country, votes are still being counted, but it’s clear a record number of voters cast their ballots. Despite the big jump in turnout, Arkansas had one of the lowest turnout rates in the country for eligible voters.
The United States Election Project is a data collection program operated by Dr. Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist. His calculations show 55.5% of Arkansas’ eligible voters turned out, placing the state behind Oklahoma (55%) as the second-lowest in the country. Minnesota led the country at 79.9% in its unofficial results.
Prof. Janine Parry, a University of Arkansas political scientist who specializes in Arkansas politics, said the 55.5% mark was surprisingly a record for the state, one originally set in 1992.
“On the one hand, good for us, right?” Parry said. “If we’re just running a race against ourselves, and voter turnout is a good thing, then we did very well.”
Parry said the relatively-low turnout can be traced to one simple fact: Arkansas’ major races weren’t competitive, even the ones billed as such.
“[Without competitive races,] you’re not going to get the high-dollar spending,” Parry said. “You’re not going to get the grassroots ‘Get out the Vote’ drives.”
In Washington County, voter turnout was around 66%, said Jennifer Price, Director of Elections. This hovered around the same mark as 2016, even though there were more people who voted. This can be attributed to more people living in the area, Price said.
Though the turnout was similar to past presidential elections, popular methods for voting changed, Price said. Around 66% of Washington County voters utilized early voting, meaning Election Day turnout was significantly smaller.
“Absentee voting made up 12%, where normally we do only about 2% absentee voting,” Price said.
Price said depending on state legislature decisions, this could be a growing trend in future state and county elections.