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Despite some higher numbers, turnout for the 2022 midterm is much of the same

People vote in the midterm election at a fire station, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Hialeah, Fla.
Lynne Sladky
People vote in the midterm election at a fire station, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Hialeah, Fla.

Now that the dust has settled on the 2022 midterms, it appears that the response was pretty much ballpark compared to most recent cycles.

Two events in the midterm last week stick out for Adam Cayton, a government professor at the University of West Florida. First, the Republican take-back of the U.S. House.

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“Which means a divided government is back, and neither party will be able to pass anything even close to what it wants,” he said. “So the Democratic Party had a reasonable chance of enacting its priorities under unified government and that's now over.”

The other is the overall competitiveness of the races that rendered a number of votes razor-thin. One stumbling block for House Republicans with the new Congress is the roadblock sitting across the Capitol Rotunda.

“[Bills have] to pass the House and Senate in identical form and Democrats will still control the Senate,” said Cayton. “Not only will it not be able to override a veto, it won't be able to even send bills to the president's desk unless the Democratic Senate allows it to.”

At least part of the credit, or blame, depending on your side of the aisle is being given to younger voters. The second-highest turnout among youth in three decades, according to a study by Tufts University. It says about 27% of young adults between 18-29 cast ballots favoring Democrats by about 27 percentage points.

“And those age cohorts broke disproportionately for Democrats, which suggest unless Republicans are able to reverse that trend, that points to an advantage for Democrats over the long term — if that trend continues,” Cayton said. “[But] trends rarely do continue.”

Historically, younger voters have trailed older ones usually posting around a 20% turnout during the 1990s, according to Tufts. The exception was the 2018 midterm, where the kids turned out at 31%. The 18-to-29-year-olds are coveted by the Democrats because they tend to lean more to the left.

In Escambia County, 31,000 voted by mail, 34,000 voted early, and just over 50,000 casting ballots on Election Day.

“It hits a little bit above, actually,” said David Stafford, the county’s Elections Supervisor. “Let's take 2018 out of the equation. If you look back on 2014 and 20, they're right at about that 50% mark. Sort of in keeping with pre-2018 primaries.”

Excluded from the comparison is the 2018 midterm, which Stafford calls an “outlier” among voting cycles — not only in the western Panhandle but statewide.

“I think the statewide turnout was about 63%," he said. "Our local turnout was 61%. As of now, before all the numbers are all firmed up, it looks like statewide turnout is right at about 54% and we're right at about 52%. I thought that we were going to be closer to 50% than 60%. I guess it turned out that I was right.”

Santa Rosa also reports a 52% turnout out of 146,000 registered voters, with just under 76,000 cast ballots. Elections chief Tappie Villane compares that to the county’s 58% turnout in 2018.

“We anticipated it would probably be in that range somewhere prior to midterms to 2018 garnered around a 40-45% turnout. We were anticipating somewhere in the 50% range," she said.

Certifying the totals is underway this week by canvassing boards across the state. Villane says the 10-day period after the election allows ballots sent from overseas to get into the office and be counted.

“(For) our overseas voters, military or civilians, it must be postmarked Election Day. But then they have 10 additional days to get those back to us,” Villane said. “So any of those that come back and meet that deadline will be able to canvas on Friday afternoon.”

In Okaloosa County, voters turned out at a 56% rate with 81,000 out of 144,000 registered.

As mentioned, the number of NPA voters continues to increase from cycle to cycle. Villane says there doesn’t appear to be any particular reason or reasons for those making the switch.

“You know, a lot of times people right before a primary will change that party affiliation to one of the major parties to vote in the primary,” said Villane. “And then they'll switch it back to an MPA [major party affiliation] or a minor party. It really just depends on the person.

Still to come, says Escambia’s David Stafford, is the breakdown of voting into categories such as age and race, once the voter history data are finalized. And he reminds us that the turnout was not equally distributed by party.

“You saw significantly higher percentage in Republican turnout than you did with Democratic turnout, and then less for no party affiliation,” said Stafford. “Turnout of Republican voters, 64% of them turned out. Democrats, about 48%. And then no party affiliation was closer to a third. So all those cobbled together get you to your 52%."

After the 2022 midterm is in the books, it’s on to preparing for the 2024 presidential election cycle. Cayton says the vote in two years is not expected to usher in any drastic changes in doing things.

“The way we conduct elections in the U.S. is very decentralized," he added. "Each state creates its own rules and conducts elections the way it wants to. I mean, back in the early 1800s all the voters used to get together and just say who they supported in public. The manner of conducting elections has changed tremendously over American history because that control is not centralized. Federal policy doesn't completely control it.”

The 2024 election, on Tuesday, November 5, will be the first presidential contest after electoral votes are redistributed according to the post-2020 Census reapportionment.