Huffpost Politics

2008 Voter Turout The Best In Generations, Perhaps Centuries

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON — Americans voted in unprecedented numbers in Tuesday's election, topping the record set in the 2004 presidential race by several million.

Experts differed on the scale of the voter turnout increase in their analysis.

Michael McDonald of George Mason University estimated that about 133.3 million people voted for president, based on preliminary results from the country's precincts tallied and projections for absentee ballots.

A more conservative estimate came from Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate at American University. He said the total votes could be between 126.5 million and 129 million.

Each vote total surpassed the count in 2004 when 122.3 million ballots were cast, the most ever for president.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press figures showed about 121.5 million people had voted in the White House race.

McDonald suggested the turnout could be close to that of 1964, but not higher than 1960 when John F. Kennedy squeaked out a victory over Richard Nixon. The turnout rate then was 63.8 percent, compared with 62.8 percent in 1964.

Gans said the lower end of his estimate would put the rate near that of 2004.

Experts calculate turnout rates in different ways based on whom they consider eligible voters.

Breakdown by party voting shows that Republican turnout rates are down quite a bit, while Democratic turnout rates are up, Gans said.

Republican states, such as Wyoming and South Dakota, saw turnout drop. "I think they were discouraged," Gans said.

North Carolina saw the greatest increase in turnout, because of close presidential, Senate and gubernatorial races, according to Gans' research. Other states where turnout increased were Indiana, Georgia and Alabama.

Elections officials in Illinois and Nebraska also said Wednesday voter turnout in their states could hit record-highs.

Despite the high volumes of people descending on polling places, few reported problems on Election Day, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll released on Wednesday.

About one in five people said they faced long lines at polling places but hardly any reported other Election Day problems, the survey found.

About half of those voting on Tuesday said they did so before 11 a.m. Roughly a quarter who said they voted said they had done so before Election Day, reflecting a rapidly expanding national trend of people choosing early or absentee voting.

Of those saying they had not voted early, about six in 10 said they voted on Election Day, with the rest not voting at all.

The AP-Yahoo News poll was conducted Nov. 4 and involved interviews with 1,352 adults. It had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.

___

Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Alan Fram contributed to this report.