US Election Turnout -- 61.6% of the Nation's Eligible Voters

The states have finished their tallies and have certified their results. It becomes official tomorrow when the Electoral College meets to elect Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. All told, the number of voters increased 7.4% in the United States in the 2008 Presidential election over 2004. More than 131 million people voted this time around, the most ever for a Presidential election, compared to a little more than the 122 million who voted in 2004. Overall, 61.6% of the nation's eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots. That's the highest turnout rate since 1968, when Republican Richard M. Nixon defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey and native son George Wallace. Four years ago in the Bush-Kerry race, 60.1% of those eligible voted.

As a measure of comparison, the electoral turnout rate in Spain's March Parliamentary elections (9-M) was just under 75% (though only 53% voted in the Basque Country) and 59.1% in Canada's recent election. In Canada, the highest voter turnout was in Prince Edward Island, where 69.5% of registered voters cast ballots. The lowest turnout in Canada was in Newfoundland and Labrador, where just 48.1% of registered voters took part.

Here are some other highlights:

-- Early voting hit a new high, with about 41 million people -- or more than 31 percent -- voting before Election Day, either by mail or at designated sites, according to returns compiled by The Associated Press. Early voting accounted for 22 percent of the votes cast in 2004.

-- Voter turnout increased substantially in newly competitive states such as Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, which all went for Obama after decades of favoring Republican presidential candidates. Turnout also increased in some Republican states with large black populations, such as Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia.

-- North Carolina, which had competitive elections for president, governor and Senate, had the biggest increase in turnout, from 57.8% in 2004 to 65.8% this year. Obama won North Carolina by 14,177 votes, out of more than 4.3 million cast. Safe to say, without that increased voter turnout it's unlikely Obama would have carried North Carolina.

-- Minnesota, with a competitive Senate race that still hasn't been decided, had the highest turnout rate, even though it dropped slightly, to 77.8%. It was followed by Wisconsin, Maine, New Hampshire and Iowa.

-- West Virginia and Hawaii tied for the lowest turnout rate, at 50.6%. Arkansas, Utah and Texas came close.

-- In all, the turnout rate increased in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

-- Turnout dropped in some states that did not have competitive presidential contests, such as Utah and Oregon. Oregon had been a battleground in previous presidential elections and the state had a competitive Senate race.

More from the New York Times.

Tags: 2008 US Presidential Election, Voter Turnout (all tags)




I've always wondered: how much of that is record-keeping?

For example: I moved from LA to Maryland in August '07.  I promptly registered to vote in Maryland.  However, I never "un-registered" in California.  Without a national voter registry, there's no way for the California voter registrar to know that I've moved - and thus, I'd imagine that in this election I showed up as a registered nonvoter in LA.

Similarly, is there a mechanism by which people are removed from the voter rolls when they die?

Other countries - like those in Europe - have more centralized record-keeping (and not nearly as many people to keep track of)... could that be an explanation for their higher turnout?

by mistersite 2008-12-14 03:35PM | 0 recs
it's turnout of "eligible voters"

rather than "registered voters."  They are estimated the numbers of U.S. citizens of the appropriate age (and minus convicted felons), for exactly the reasons you cite.

You should hopefully be not be double counted in the census estimates, but of course who knows how accurate estimated population between the major surveys is?

by John DE 2008-12-14 03:50PM | 0 recs
Go Minnesota

That's some turnout we can believe in.

If only they could have a runoff election to really decide this darn Senate race. Maybe they'll revise their laws after this debacle.

by existenz 2008-12-14 03:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Minnesota

Same state bias, but how is it a debacle?

1) They aren't even done doing the initial recount so we don't know the final totals so even if there was a runoff it couldn't be help yet.

2) Aside from the lost ballots that are at most 300 out of 2.7 million cast, what problems do you have?

3) Challenged ballots, these are almost entirely frivolous challenges from both sides. There are going to be a lot less challenged ballots that actively need to be contest and aside from clerical errors, the problems are that the voters screwed up. I voted absentee in MN this year (as in 2006) and it is not that hard.

4) The decisions of the board have been largely sensible and timely.

So I ask you, aside from impatience, the problem is...?

by MNPundit 2008-12-14 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Minnesota

Well, there were 10,000 absentee ballots rejected for legitimate reasons.  That isn't enough to have prevented a recount, but it is enough to suggest that absentee voting presents too much difficulty to absentee voters.

by lojasmo 2008-12-15 03:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Go Minnesota

"This debacle" brought us Lizard People!  How could that be a bad thing?  Seriously, most of us aren't involved in actual recounts, so it's interesting to see some of the strange stuff people put on ballots.  It gives you some idea just how meaningless these 0.01% margins are.

by username 2008-12-15 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Go Minnesota

What do you reckon the results of the Senate race will be?

I get the feeling that if Republicans garner any more power than they already have, they will have some significant influence in the Senate, and therefore undermining certain elements of Democratic policy.

What effect do you think this will have on Obama's presidency?

by SmoothPianist02 2008-12-16 01:36AM | 0 recs
I don't understand the numbers / terminology

- voter turnout in 2008 increased 7.4% over 2004

  • 61.6% of eligible voters turned out in 2008
  • 60.1% of eligible voters turned out in 2004

How's an 1.5% increase of eligible voter turnout (from 60.1% to 61.6%) also a 7.4% turnout increase?

by kosnomore 2008-12-14 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't understand the numbers / terminology

The 7.4% increase is arrived by 131 million divided by 122 million.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-14 04:08PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't understand the numbers / terminology

7.4% more voters voted in 2008 over 2004 but you're right that's different than turnout. I'll adjust to make that distinction clearer. Thanks.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-14 04:20PM | 0 recs
Thanks - -

I appreciate the explanation.

by kosnomore 2008-12-14 04:56PM | 0 recs

Highest turnout in more than 40 years is pretty impressive. Looks like the Obama GOTV machine was pretty successful specially in states like NC, IN, MO (even though he lost there by 3k votes), GA (5% lose compared to kerry's 17% loss) and VA (won by 7%!).

Oh and you should probably note the final percentages in PV for the candidates too in your FP. here it is:

Obama :52.9%  McCain: 45.7%  

7.2% & 9.5 million vote difference between the two ential_election

by YourConcernsAreNoted 2008-12-14 04:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Still

Why do you think there was such a big gap between the two campaigners?

Why do you think that Obama garnered much of the power that he did?

Also, i wonder what the turnout would have been like if Hiliary Clinton was the Democratic nominee for Presidency?

by SmoothPianist02 2008-12-16 01:43AM | 0 recs
Re: US Election Turnout

3 points:

1. We are capable of good turnout numbers in the U.S. but just not in off years.

2. "Off years" don't really exist in a parliamentary system since a change in party is a change in PM.  (maybe local parliamentary elections but local parliamentary elections offer more gratification).

3. The problem is that wingnuts run for schoolboards, city councils and mayors offices too.  So while overall turnout doesn't bug me, off year turnout is a little worrisome because our local governments will eventually stop functioning and instead start worrying about evolution, abortion and the War on Christmas.

by AZphilosopher 2008-12-14 06:58PM | 0 recs
Re: US Election Turnout

Well, i guess now is the right time to ask the (potentially dumbfounding) question - why was there such a good turnout at this election?

The only things i can think of at this moment are possibly the amount of money and effort that went into the campaign, e.g. advertisements, tours of states, etc -- i read somewhere it has been the most expensive campaigning effort ever, exceeding over $5.3 billion -- or perhaps it is more to do with the policies that have been offered.

Or is it that people want a change from Bush (a LOT of people)?

Or could it even be the controversial, yet necessary to mention, fact that Obama is African-American?

I'm not sure on this topical question, as it is quite sensitive, and has most likely been overplayed these past two years, although it is something that genuinely interests me.

What do people think?

by SmoothPianist02 2008-12-15 03:02PM | 0 recs


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