Voter Participation

Desired Trend

Up

Current Trend

Down
Baseline (2008): 69.5%
Current (2016): 67.5%

Theme Educated

Definition

Voter turnout among registered voters in the presidential election

Why is it Important?

Voting is an essential component of a representative democracy and is a form of civic engagement that demonstrates an interest in shaping and improving public policy. In addition, higher rates of voting increase the ability of residents to support policies that advance sustainability. Traditionally, voting rates are higher among those with higher education levels and higher family incomes, therefore an increase in voter participation could signal an increase in voting among typically disenfranchised voters, resulting in more inclusive and equitable participation. 

How are we Doing?

In the St. Louis region, the percent of registered voters that voted in the presidential election decreased from 69.5 percent in the baseline year (2008) to 67.5 percent in 2016.1 However, from 2000 to 2016 the voter participation rate increased by 3.8 percentage points. In congressional elections, the percent of registered voters who voted increased and then decreased, from 49.7 percent in 2002, up to 51.0 percent in 2006, and down to 47.2 percent in 2010. In 2014, voter turnout was even lower, with a turnout rate of only 38.5 percent among registered voters.

Among the eight counties in the St. Louis region, between 2000 and 2012 voter turnout during presidential elections was highest in Monroe and St. Charles counties but in 2016, voter turnout in Madison, Jefferson, and Franklin counties was higher than turnout in St. Charles County. Since 2000, turnout has consistently been the lowest in the city of St. Louis. In the 2016 election, 59.2 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the city of St. Louis. By comparison, 78.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Monroe County.

Another important consideration is voter registration. In 2016, 93.6 percent of the voting age population in the St. Louis region was registered to vote. Among the eight counties, the rate was highest in St. Charles County, (98.9 percent), followed by St. Louis County (98.2 percent). In the St. Louis region, thee rate was lowest in Jefferson County.

Voter turnout can also be assessed as a share of the entire voting age population—the population aged 18 years and older. In St. Louis, 63.5 percent of people aged 18 and older voted in the presidential election in 2016. This is higher than the national rate, which was 56.0 percent in 2016. Compared to the nation, St. Louis has had higher voter turnout in each presidential election since 2000 according to this method of measurement. Since 2002, St. Louis’ rate of voter turnout has been higher than the national rate in most midterm elections as well, with the exception of 2014. In 2014, the voter turnout rate was slightly lower in the St. Louis region with a rate of 34.7 percent of the voting age population compared with 38.5 percent nationally.

The region’s lower voter turnout was likely due to the fact there was no U.S. Senator up for reelection in Missouri in 2014. The ballot receiving the highest number of votes in that year was the race for the state auditor’s office. In Missouri and in Illinois, there has been either a U.S. Senator or a governor up for election in the three previous mid-term elections.

A third method is to report voter turnout based only on the voting eligible population, which consists of citizens who are aged 18 years and older. In St. Louis, voter turnout among the voting eligible population is similar to the turnout rate of the voting age population. Throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), 65.2 percent of the voting eligible population cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, compared with 63.3 percent of the voting age population. Nationally, there is a larger difference between turnout among the voting eligible population and the voting age population. In 2016, 61.4 percent of the voting eligible population cast a ballot, compared with 56.0 percent of the voting age population.

In the 2016 presidential election, voter turnout among the voting eligible population in the St. Louis MSA ranked 16th among the 50 most populous regions in the country (the peer regions). This is a slight improvement from St. Louis’ ranking during the 2012 presidential election, in which the region ranked 17th. In both the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, Minneapolis had the highest rate of voter turnout among eligible voters, with rates of 78.3 percent and 75.8 percent, respectively. 

Voter Participation St. Louis

Geographic Level

St. Louis eight county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties and city of St. Louis in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois. View map.

Notes

1Voter turnout in Missouri is measured by the number of votes cast in the race receiving the highest number of votes statewide. In presidential election years, the race with the highest number of votes cast is either the presidential race or the senate race. This method has the potential to undercount voter turnout, since individual counties may differ from the state in terms of which race has the highest number of votes cast. In the state of Illinois, voter turnout is measured by counting the number of ballots cast.

Data Sources

Illinois State Board of Elections; Missouri Office of the Secretary of State