Voter turnout: the 6 states that rank highest, and why

Which state will have the highest voter turnout on Nov. 6?

On average, about half (51.6 percent) of eligible US voters cast ballots, but six states averaged more than 60 percent. The policies and attitudes in these states may hold lessons for those trying to get out the vote around the country.

4. Alaska

Dan Joling/AP/File
In this 2010 file photo, US Sen. Lisa Murkowski gives her Republican primary concession speech at her campaign headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska. Senator Murkowski won the election as a write-in candidate becoming the first write-in candidate elected to the Senate since 1954.

Alaska’s eligible voter turnout rate – 60.42 percent – is attributed to competitive gubernatorial and senatorial races in the past several elections.

Carl Shepro, professor emeritus at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, suggests that voter interest “hinges on the candidates rather than any state laws.”

In Alaska’s most recent US Senate race, sitting Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) won as a write-in candidate, beating Republican Joe Miller, who defeated her during the primary. Senator Murkowski was the first write-in candidate elected to the Senate since 1954, reported The New York Times

Murkowski appealed to Alaska’s nonpartisan and undeclared voters – more than half of registered voters – in order to defeat Mr. Miller, a tea party favorite backed by former Gov. Sarah Palin, Shepro says. She also received support from the Alaskan Native population: Turnout in the North Slope borough was 90 percent.

Also making Alaska’s elections more competitive – there is always a third-party candidate running, usually from the Alaskan Independence Party. Shepro says those candidates don’t get a lot of support, but they do help balance the state’s majority Republican Party, which has twice as many registered voters than do Democrats.

Convenience is another factor at play in Alaska – as the state offers early (in-person or by mail) and absentee voting. Also, any registered voter can apply to have a ballot faxed to them. The “electronic transmission ballot” is due by 5 p.m. on Election Day, according to Alaska’s Division of Elections.

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