I’m frequently asked by both current and prospective clients if their existing voter participation rates are acceptable, but defining “acceptable” is not easy. To at least provide a starting point for addressing the question, I sampled voter participation rates from fifty randomly chosen elections conducted during 2013. These elections were conducted by a very diverse array of organizations from professional membership associations with as many as 60,000 voters to community clubs with only a few dozen voters. Sampled clients include unions, realtor associations, educational institutions, non-profit associations and more but are fairly representative of ElectionsOnline’s broader client base.
The average voter turnout for these elections was 39 percent. But let’s go deeper to see how meaningless a figure that is. Smaller organizations had the highest voter participation rates with the highest voter turnout being 92% from an election with 59 eligible voters in which 54 of them voted. The lowest voter turnout was only 4% from an organization where only 162 of an eligible 4374 voted.
As a general observation, smaller organizations tend to have the highest voter turnout. Presumably because in a smaller organization, everyone knows everyone else and is more likely to feel knowledgeable about who the candidates are and how they wish vote. In larger organizations the general membership may feel more distanced from the leaders and therefore less knowledgeable about the platforms of the candidates which makes those voters less likely to vote.
Is being a member of your organization a mandatory requirement for practice in a given profession, or is membership voluntary? If mandatory, expect lower voter participation rates simply because membership is a requirement—a chore they must complete to be licensed in a given profession. Beyond completing that chore they have no interest in being engaged with the organization in any manner.
So my recommendation is don’t be concerned with how you compare to the 39% turnout referenced earlier in this article. The elections that made up that figure were conducted by organizations that span too broad a spectrum, and are thus too skewed, to be comparable to any one organization. There may however be value to making comparisons between your organization and other similar organizations. Similar both in terms of size and purpose just to learn if you’re in the ballpark or have cause for alarm with regards to your voter participation.
More importantly, how does your current voter participation percentage compare to that of previous years? Pointers on how to increase that participation rate are presented at 18 Tips to Increase Voter Participation. Remember also as stated earlier, smaller organizations with a stronger sense of community enjoy the highest voter participation rates. Take a cue from that and try create a sense of community within your organization regardless of its size. Perhaps by using things like online discussion forums through which an organization’s leaders engage directly with the voters. Submit “create an online community” to your favorite search engine for more ideas.
If you have an idea or case study on how your voter turnout was impacted by a measure you took, please share through the comments field below.