WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has inspired outrage, love, fear and every emotion in between. He also has inspired record-breaking turnout at the ballot box.
With votes still being counted, an estimated 113 million Americans cast ballots in the first nationwide election of the Trump presidency, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. That’s 30 million more people who participated in the 2014 midterms, representing the highest raw vote total for a non-presidential election in U.S. history and the highest overall voter participation rate in a midterm election in a half century.
Democrats’ blue wave was real. But so was a corresponding surge in Republican enthusiasm that allowed the president’s party to counter the Democrats’ new House majority with big wins in top contests for the Senate and governorships this week.
“This election was about both Democrats and Republicans showing up,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who tracks voter turnout the United States Elections Project.
Indeed, voter participation rates approached presidential levels in some states as even the most optimistic voting experts and political operatives underestimated Trump’s ability to drive voter turnout on both sides.
Democrats seized the House majority by flipping at least 28 seats nationwide. They could claim as many as 35 new seats once all the votes are counted, which could take weeks in some cases.
Analyzing 417 House races that featured at least two candidates on the ballot, The AP has determined that Democrats earned more than 51.4 million votes in competitive House races nationwide, or 52 percent, compared to 47.2 million votes cast, or 48 percent, for Republicans.
But both parties exceeded turnout expectations.
Voting experts noted that turnout exploded in states with big-ticket elections such as Florida, which featured high-profile races for Senate and governor, and those states with lower-profile contests such as North Carolina, which featured only judicial races on the statewide ballot. Voter participation rates jumped by around 10 points in both states.