What 50 years of voting in Pa. looks like | The Numbers Racket

By: - February 27, 2020 7:13 am

A lot can change in 50 years, and a lot has. You only need to look at the way that Pennsylvania has voted in presidential elections to see that. 

Over the last half-century, the Keystone State’s population has grown; the number of registered voters has increased, and the number of votes cast has climbed. But there’s more to this data than meets the eye. 

Let’s take a closer look in this week’s Numbers Racket. 

Note: Voting age population includes all citizens of voting age whether they are registered or not


From the line graph above, we can see that the voting-age population is, and continues to be, the highest data point of this analysis (green line).

Next, firmly stuck in the middle is the number of registered voters, made up of a percentage of the voting-age population (red line).

And climbing, but still dismally low, is the number of votes cast (blue line)

The breakdown

According to data compiled by  the Pennsylvania Department of State, the percentage of registered voters in the state that actually hit the polls on election day in 2016 was 70 percent. 

While it’s not a terrible number, it pales in comparison to the turnout percentage of previous elections.

1960 … 88%

1968 … 84.80%

1964 … 84.20% 

1992 … 82.80%

1976 … 80.40%

… just to name a few. 

To get a better glimpse of the whole picture in the years with high voter turnout, let’s analyze the data a little more.

In 1992, 9,129,000 Pennsylvanians were of voting age. However, only 65.65 percent of the voting-age population were registered to vote. Of that 65 percent, only 54.30 percent voted. 

The 1976 election looked very much the same way, with more than 8.5 million Pennsylvanians of voting age. But while 67.40 percent of the voting-age population was registered to vote, only 54.20 percent did. 

By comparison, in 2008, 9,686,275 Pennsylvanians were of voting age. Setting the record for the last 50 years, some 90 percent of the voting age population was registered to vote. Of the more than 90 percent registered, 68.65 percent of voters in Pennsylvania actually cast their ballots. 

In the tumultuous 2000 election, more than 9.3 million Pennsylvanians were of voting age, just 63 percent of all of Pennsylvania’s registered voters made it to the polls (the lowest percentage in the last 50 years).


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