The Highest Voter Turnouts in History of U.S. Elections

So far, the 2020 presidential election has set the record for the highest voter turnout in 120 years, and the highest record for mail-in voting ever.

A whopping 160 million people—nearly two thirds of all eligible American voters—cast their ballots this year, and experts predict that number could climb even higher as votes continue being counted across the nation.

Currently, 2020 voter turnout is projected to sit at roughly 67 percent. That's the highest it's been since the 1900 election between Republican President William McKinley and Democratic challenger William Jennings Bryan, which saw a 73.7 percent turnout.

Typically U.S. elections range between 50 or 60 percent voter turnout, But some elections in U.S. history have reached as high as 82.6 percent turnout, while others have dipped as low as 6.3 percent.

Interestingly, each of the highest voter turnouts in history happened during the mid-to-late 19th century, with five elections bringing in a turnout of 80 percent or higher.

Among the lowest voter turnout races include 1792, when just 6.3 percent of voters cast their ballots. Following closely behind includes the race of 1820 between James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, with 10.1 percent voter turnout.

And the very first presidential race of 1789 had the third lowest voter turnout in U.S. history, with just 11.6 percent voter turnout.

The following list includes the top five highest voter turnout races in history, according to research data compiled by The Elect Project and 270towin.

James Garfield
U.S. President James A. Garfield. Getty

#5 1880 Election: James A. Garfield vs Winfield S. Hancock

Winner: James A. Garfield (Republican)

Voter turnout: 80.5 percent

Electoral votes received: 214 of 369 (58%)

Popular votes received: 4,454,416 (48.3%)

The mid-late 19th century saw multiple elections with voter turnouts above 80 percent. In 1880, James A. Garfield became the nation's 20th president, with the smallest popular vote victory in modern history. At that point, it was the highest voter turnout election in history.

Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) served as President of the United States from 1889 to 1893. Library of Congress/Getty

#4 1888 Election: Benjamin Harrison vs Grover Cleveland

Winner: Benjamin Harrison (Republican)

Voter turnout: 80.5 percent

Electoral votes received: 233 of 401 (58.1%)

Popular votes received: 5,439,853 (47.8%)

Eight years later, the presidential race between Benjamin Harrison and Democrat incumbent Grover Cleveland saw another high voter turnout of 80.5 percent. Though Cleveland gained a higher percentage of the popular vote, Harrison won the presidency with the electoral college.

Ulysses S. Grant
General Ulysses S. Grant with Chiefs of Staff Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/Getty

#3 1868 Election: Ulysses S. Grant vs Horatio Seymour

Winner: Ulysses S. Grant (Republican)

Voter turnout: 80.9 percent

Electoral votes received: 214 of 294 (72.8%)

Popular votes received: 3,012,833 (52.7%)

In 1868, the fight between Ulysses S. Grant and Horatio Seymour encouraged 80.9 percent of eligible voters to cast their vote. This was the first U.S. election to take place during Reconstruction, meaning that people living in Texas, Mississippi, and Virginia were not deemed eligible to cast their vote.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, making his famous 'Gettysburg Address' speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery during the American Civil War. Library of Congress/Getty

#2 1860 Election: Abraham Lincoln vs John C. Breckinridge, John Bell & Stephen A. Douglas

Winner: Abraham Lincoln (Republican)

Voter turnout: 81.8 percent

Electoral votes received: 180 of 303 (59.4%)

Popular votes received: 1,866,452 (39.7%)

The 1860 election encapsulated a divided America, and set the stage for the U.S. civil war. With the second-highest voter turnout in history, voters across the country cast their ballots that would determine the future of slavery and the power of states rights.

1876 election
During an assembly at the Senate, Mr. Ferry, the Senate President, announces the results of the election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden. Getty

#1 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes vs Samuel Tilden

Winner: Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican)

Voter turnout: 82.6 percent

Electoral votes received: 185 of 369 (50.1%)

Popular votes received: 4,036,298 (47.9%)

The highest-ever voter turnout in U.S. history was the election of 1876 between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democratic opponent Samuel Tilden. This election allowed Black men the right to vote following the passage of the 15th amendment, though many voters were met with acts of suppression. It was also one of the most disputed races in history. Neither candidate won a majority and, after the House of Representatives set up a commission, Hayes was awarded the presidency.