Pew Study: TN Ranks Almost Last In Voter Turnout

Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-10 23:02:00-04

Are Tennesseans bad voters? A recent analysis from The Pew Charitable Trusts certainly made it seem that way.

Tennessee ranked almost dead last in voter turnout. With 29 percent of registered voters making it to the polls, the Volunteer State beat only Texas and scored almost 10 points below the national average. That's according to numbers from 2014.

Local election officials said the numbers were misleading and voter turnout should get a big boost in November. Although they have contended it can be difficult to convince people to vote.

"We want Tennesseans to get registered. We want Tennesseans to go to the polls, but it can be challenging at times," said Secretary of State spokesperson Adam Ghassemi.

It has been especially challenging without big battles on ballots across the state.

Election officials pointed out this recent August election, and the 2014 elections from the  Pew study just didn't have those high-profile, contested races.

The election in early August brought out less than 13 percent of voters registered in Davidson County. 

"If your top two races are kind of walkovers," said NewsChannel 5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan,"the Governor being easily reelected and the same for Senator Alexander (in 2014) - that doesn't tend to jack up overall turnout."

The ballot theory seemed to fit, with early voting turnout at an all-time high for the primaries in March.

"We shattered that record, and we also shattered the number of Tennesseans who voted for president in the primaries," Ghassemi said.

You may remember Tennessee received unprecedented attention from Presidential hopefuls prior to that election.

"The candidates came here in both parties," Nolan said. "They spent time here, they campaigned here, they sent staff here, they spent money on TV ads." 

Will the higher voter trend continue in November? It's possible. More voters always turn out for Presidential races.

"That's kind of puzzling when you think about who has more of an impact on your day to day life," Nolan said. "Does the President? Yeah. But does the Mayor and the Governor? Yeah, and maybe a little bit more."

Meantime, the state and county commissions will keep pushing people to vote on social media, on school campuses, and at community events.

It launched the Go Vote TN app which will help you research candidates and find your polling place right from your smart phone. You can even take the app with you to the polls.

A mock election will happen in classrooms across the state in hopes of getting future voters excited about the process.

"We can definitely make a dent with outreach," said Ghassemi.

Next July, Tennessee has planned to begin an online form of voter registration.

To learn more about the Go Vote TN program, click here.

If you'd like to view the entire study from The Pew Charitable Trusts, click here.