Monday, November 10, 2008

Historic turnout? Not!

It looks more and more like Barack Obama has been elected President by roughly the same electorate we had that last couple of times around. First, we learned a few days ago that turnout among young, new voters (18-29) was only a hair larger than in 2004. Now this, as reported by Politico:

"Despite widespread predictions of record turnout in this year’s presidential election, roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004.Between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent of the 208.3 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, compared with 60.6 percent of those eligible in 2004, according to a voting analysis by American University political scientist Curtis Gans, an authority on voter turnout."

The upshot is that about 6.5 million more people were registered to vote this year, but the percentage who turned out stayed the same. It gets even better (or worse), as Gans suggests that the much-ballyhooed GOTV efforts "did not seem to make that big of a difference."

For example: "In Ohio, which has had aggressive GOTV campaigns in the past two presidential cycles, the number of voters appeared to decline from 5,722,443 in 2004 to 5,595,966 in 2008, according to the final but unofficial tally by the Ohio secretary of state."

As for all those people waiting in line for hours to vote three weeks ahead of election day, "Interestingly, Gans found that state efforts to make voting more convenient — for instance, through programs for early or mail-in voting — did not significantly boost turnout. Of the 14 states with the largest turnout increases, only six had so-called convenience voting initiatives, while in the 13 states with the greatest decline in voting, 12 had some form of convenience voting."

Of course, Obama did win the votes of 18 to 29 year olds by two to one, and a small increase in African-American voters was amplified by his 95%-plus plurality from that group. S till, the electoral landscape is a lot harder to change than some of the looser reporting about it would lead you to think.

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