Last November, Maine witnessed the highest voter turnout nation-wide, vaulting the state into the leading position for the first time since 1992.
Analysts ascribe Maine’s regained electoral supremacy to election-day registration policies as well as the competitive nature of last year’s gubernatorial contest.
George Pillsbury, the Executive Director of Nonprofit Vote, said that voting in Maine is promoted institutionally.
“Voting and political participation is habit forming,” he said. “If it’s high over time, it continues to be high and can go higher. States like Maine have more social capital, and have more non-profits that get people involved in community life.”
“Social capital entails trust among neighbors, high levels of volunteerism, high levels of interaction between citizens and state legislators, and high likelihoods that people follow community events and news,” he said.
The relative homogeneity of the voting population also sets Maine apart. Pillsbury said that states that have larger number of immigrants such as Texas tend to observe lower voting rates.
Pillsbury also emphasized the competitive nature of the gubernatorial race as a leading factor of higher turnout.
“Having competition drives turnout when voters feel mobilized and feel a reason to vote. The multi-party race for a top office made the governor’s race very competitive.”
Currently, 9 other states offer election-day registration. A report released by Nonprofit Vote found that election turnout was 10 percent higher in the states that offered election-day registration.
A full copy of the report is available here.