US Election Turnout -- 61.6% of the Nation's Eligible Voters
by Charles Lemos, Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 03:12:45 PM EST
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.