voting age population (VAP), voting eligible population (VEP), municipal and federal voter turnout
Voting is defined as the level of citizen participation in elections.
Why does voting matter?
Voting is the most basic form of civic engagement in our political system. Without it, a genuinely representative democracy cannot exist. Whether utilized to select elected officials or directly weigh in on ballot measures, voting empowers citizens to participate in choosing the public policies that affect their lives. We study citizen participation through voting statistics to gauge whether a given population is taking the necessary steps to see that their interests are represented by the government officials they elect.
How do we measure voting?
The PPC uses the following three indicators to measure voting. Registered voters as a percentage of voting age population (VAP) refers to the percentage of individuals that have reached the minimum voting age (18 +). This includes persons ineligible to vote, mainly non-citizens and ineligible felons, and excludes expatriate eligible voters. This is calculated by the PPC by dividing the number of registered voters in 2010 by the total number of city residents ages 18 and over. Population data comes from the 2010 US Census. It is important to note that the reported number of registered voters may be affected by the frequency with which cities review and clean up these lists to more accurately depict resident voters.
Registered voters as a percentage of voting eligible population (VEP) refers to the percentage of individuals eligible to vote. This is calculated by subtracting the number of adult non-citizens from a city’s total population of 18+ adults and dividing the number of registered voters by this number.
Municipal and federal voter turnout refers to the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot on election day. The PPC measures both municipal and federal elections to depict a complete representation of voter turnout statistics. This approach was chosen with the mindset that federal elections typically receive significantly more attention, oftentimes creating an environment where voting rates are atypically high among all populations.
How is Fall River doing?
1. Registered voters as a percentage of the voting age population: 71.5%
For context, VAP in New Bedford is 71.4%, while the proportion is 83.9% statewide.
2. Registered voters as a percentage of the voting-eligible population: 78.4%
Comparatively, VEP in New Bedford is 79.1%. Among Massachusetts cities, those with the highest VEP include Quincy (95.4%) and Leominster (88.4%).
3. Voter turnout in the last municipal election: 34.6% (November 2015)
Among peer cities, Fall River’s turnout was relatively high. Other rates included 22.7% in New Bedford, 41.9% in Holyoke, and 21.3% in Worcester.
4. Voter turnout in the last federal election: 34.3% (November 2014)
In 2012, turnout was higher at 59%. Comparatively, turnout across Massachusetts was 30% of registered voters in November 2014.
How is New Bedford doing?
1. Registered voters as a percentage of the voting age population: 71.4%
For context, VAP in Fall River is 71.5%, while the proportion is 83.9% statewide.
2. Registered voters as a percentage of the voting-eligible population: 79.1%
Comparatively, VEP in Fall River is 78.4%. Among Massachusetts cities, those with the highest VEP include Quincy (95.4%) and Leominster (88.4%).
3. Voter turnout in the last municipal election: 22.7% (November 2015)
Among peer cities, New Bedford’s turnout was relatively high. Other rates included 34.6% in Fall River, 41.9% in Holyoke, and 21.3% in Worcester.
4. Voter turnout in the last federal election: 32.3% (November 2014)
Comparatively, voter turnout in 2012 was 62.8%. Turnout across Massachusetts was 30% of registered voters in November 2014.
What’s being done to address voting concerns, and where can I learn more?
State and City Based Programs
MassVOTE, a 501(c)3 civic education and voting rights organization, works statewide to register, educate and mobilize voters, with a focus on historically underrepresented communities in Massachusetts, especially people of color. Through programs such as the Democracy for Nonprofits Project, MassVOTE works with over 300 nonprofits across Massachusetts to help them incorporate nonpartisan voter education into their everyday work. Additionally, The Young Civic Leaders, a MassVote program, gives youth the tools that they need to become leaders in their communities. For more information about MassVOTE and their programs, click here.
The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) is the largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications. A large part of MIRA’s work is dedicated to registering New Americans and engaging them fully in the democratic process. To learn more about MIRA’s voting advocacy efforts, click here.
National Programs and Policies
The League of Young Voters is a national organization based in low-income, ethnically diverse communities similar to Fall River and New Bedford. The organization, in conjunction with other voting advocacy groups like We Are America, is dedicated to presenting the direct link between the issues that affect local and national audiences and the ability of these audiences to use their vote to facilitate improvement in that area. The organization attempts to engage young people in the democratic process by creating connections between popular music and politics through grassroots activism and social media outreach. To learn more about The League of Young Voters, click here.
Rock the Vote is another voting advocacy group dedicated to engaging and building political power for young people in throughout the country. For more information on their work, click here.
If you are not yet registered to vote, we urge you to call one of the aforementioned voting advocacy groups or visit the MA Election Division Web site.
Data sources and methods
1) To calculate VAP and VEP, population data was gathered from the 2010 Census, while the number of non-citizens was obtained from the 2006-10 American Community Survey. All data can be found at http://factfinder2.census.gov. Meanwhile, the number of registered voters came from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue- Division of Local Services .
2-FR) Municipal voter turnout data was provided by Fall River’s Board of Elections Commissioners office.
2-NB) Municipal voter turnout data was provided by this article in the Standard Times.
3-FR) Federal voter turnout data was sourced from Fall River’s Herald News.
3-NB) Federal voter turnout data was sourced from the City of New Bedford Election Commission.