Voter Turnout Was Spectacular This Year — But Not in California

NOTE: This post is totally wrong. A corrected post is here.

For the past two months I’ve heard nothing except hoots and hollers about how voter turnout this year is going to be amazing. Excitement is sky high! Early voting is tremendous! Lines to vote are miles long!

And apparently everyone was right. Edison estimates that voter turnout reached 49 percent in 2018, the highest in a midterm election in the past 40 years:

On the other hand, here in the center of the Resistance voter turnout was dismal, the worst in 40 years. This is almost certainly because of our crappy top-two primary, which makes most of our statewide offices completely uninteresting. We had plenty of good local races and plenty of ballot initiatives this year, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that both the Senate race and the Governor’s race were foregone conclusions.

[UPDATE: I’m reliably told that the California numbers only include the ballots counted so far. The final number will probably be at least 3-5 points higher than it is in my chart. This is still not great, but at least it’s better than 2014.]

Moral of the story: If you want people to turn out to vote, you need to give them something interesting to vote for. Here in California we rarely do that anymore. We should go back to an ordinary primary system that allows Democrats and Republicans to pick their candidates separately. Maybe then we could persuade people to get out and vote.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.