Nearly 100,000 Erie County residents made it out to the polls yesterday. That’s the highest voter turnout the region has seen in more than 20 years.
In a typical midterm election in Erie County, voter turnout ends up in the 20 or 30% range, but this election was anything but typical.
Doug Smith, Erie County Clerk of Elections, tells us, “I had felt that we would do well, but well was maybe something in the high 30’s or 40’s… It became quite evident early in the day that we were gonna do beyond that.”
Beyond that… by several thousand voters.
The latest numbers show 52.2% of registered voters participated in this election. That’s the highest voter turnout in an Erie County midterm since 1994.
Caitlin Handerhan, Public Policy Fund of Penn State Behrend, tells us, “Democracy is contingent upon participation, so the more that we have voter turnout, the better.”
Handerhan says a multitude of factors contributed to getting the voters energized; one being Republicans trying to hold the House and Senate and Democrats trying to win back momentum. Another? Potentially the 2016 election.
“All the polls projected Hillary Clinton to win, and then when Trump ended up winning, I think people really saw the power of their vote. There was a lot of complacent voters that didn’t come out in 2016 and I think we’re really seeing that people are empowered to sort of own their vote.”
But local races could’ve also been a motivator to get out and vote, with heated campaigns for Congress and Assembly.
Smith says, “Obviously, you had a lot of boots on the ground, you had a lot of excitement, you had a lot of interest…”
Experts tell us the number of young people who registered to vote before this midterm is almost unprecedented compared to other years.