Voter Registration Since 1980

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National voter registration rates have remained fairly steady since 1980, according to data from the U.S. Census. In 1980, the first year the Census gathered national data on registration rates for the voting-eligible population, 72.3 percent of Americans were registered to vote. In 2012, this number was slightly lower at 71.2 percent.

Registration rates in some states, however, have shown more fluctuation. In 1980, the rate in North Carolina was 63 percent. In 2012, it was 78.9 percent. In neighboring South Carolina, the registration rate jumped from 59.6 percent in 1980 to 73.3 percent in 2012. Utah, on the other hand, saw its rate drop from 79.3 percent in 1980 to 63.5 percent in 2012. Hawaii’s rate also dropped, from 70.4 percent in 1980 to the lowest rate of any state in 2012—58.9 percent. Hawaii has had the lowest registration rate every presidential election since 1996.