CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia was last in the nation in voter turnout in November, the only state where less than half of eligible voters voted, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau released in May.
Young West Virginians in particular lagged behind. Less than 23 percent of 18- to 24-year olds voted in West Virginia, the worst voting record of any age group in any state in the country.
"That's a huge disappointment to me," said Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is responsible for overseeing the state's elections.
The poor turnout among young people looks even worse when compared to the 2008 election.
In 2008, 48.7 percent of West Virginians in the 18-24 age group voted, slightly outperforming their peers nationwide, 48.4 percent of whom voted, according to the Census data.
But while youth voting declined across the country in 2012, it absolutely plummeted in West Virginia, falling by more than 50 percent, the biggest drop-off for any age group in any state in the country. So, in terms of voter turnout, young West Virginians fell from slightly above average in 2008 to dead last by a sizable margin in 2012.
The Census voter turnout statistics are compiled using surveys, not actual voting numbers, but Census' estimates of votes cast track very closely with the official numbers from the secretary of state.
Tennant said the lack of competitiveness in the presidential election in the state - Mitt Romney won West Virginia by nearly 27 points - may have hurt turnout.
"We didn't have a presidential election here in 2012. Mitt Romney didn't have his campaign here, Barack Obama didn't have a campaign here, not like it was in 2008." Tennant said. "We were overlooked by both sides of the presidential candidates for obvious reasons. People see how you run campaigns and if you see the writing on the wall, you're probably not going to spend your resources in a place."
In seven states and the District of Columbia the presidential race was even less competitive than in West Virginia, as judged by the final margin between the candidates. In four of those states voter turnout was below the national average, but in three of those states and the District of Columbia voter turnout was above average.
Ironically, Washington, D.C., where politics tend to dominate discussions, had both the least competitive presidential race in the country and the highest voter turnout
Neil Berch, an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University, also said that the uncompetitive presidential race probably held turnout down, and cited a couple other factors as well.
"There's some evidence that how competitive an election is impacts voter turnout," Berch said. "There's a correlation between income and education level on the one hand and voter turnout on the other. ... One other thing we could do is move the registration closer to Election Day. States with same-day voter registration typically have about 10 percent higher turnout."
Currently in West Virginia voters need to be registered 21 days before an election to be eligible to vote in that election.
In April, Tennant said that she would look at changing that date to give people a little more time to register to vote, but that same-day registration was unlikely.