Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Alhambra, Calif. on November 4, 2014.
Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images
By Charlotte Alter
November 10, 2014

The last time voter turnout for a national election was as low as it was on Nov.4, Hitler was still in power, and Mitch McConnell was only nine months old.

Only 36.4% of eligible voters voted in this year’s midterm elections, down from 40.9% who voted in 2010, according to preliminary analysis by Michael McDonald at the University of Florida. The last time voter turnout was that low was 1942, when only 33.9% of voters cast ballots, according to the United States Elections Project.

That was also a year that the U.S. established the European Theater of Operations in WWII, so a large share of the voting population was a little busy doing other things.

Voter turnout in presidential elections is historically much higher than in midterms– 58.2% of eligible voters voted in 2012, and 61.6% voted in 2008, the highest turnout since 1968. In other words, turnout for Obama’s first presidential election was almost double the 2014 midterm turnout.

 

Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

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