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2008 Presidential Turnout Flat -- How Did That Happen?

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2008 Presidential Turnout Flat

How Did That Happen?

Michael Collins

(Wash. DC)  In 2004, we were told to anticipate a red versus blue election.  It didn't turn out that way but that was hardly mentioned.

By 2008, we were told to expect record voter turnout for the presidential election. Now we're told that the predictions were wrong, the pictures of long lines, massive early voting, and massive registration increases all went to produce just about the same vote total as reported for 2004.

The 2004 vote total was 122 million compared to 105 million in 2000.  We're left with this question.  With all the excitement and effort plus a huge funding advantage for Obama, how is it that the voters going to the polls were about equal in number for 2004 and 2008?

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Here are some of the headlines:

Voter turnout approaches some records, breaks others, Harvard Gazette, Nov. 6, 2008, Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard Kennedy School

"Judging from past experience, however, it would appear that roughly 134 million Americans voted in the 2008 general election - a 65 percent turnout rate."

This estimate is 12 million votes over the actual count to date found in the Atlas of U.S Presidential Elections, meticulously compiled by David Leip.  But 12 million off is minor compared to the projection of Infoplease which estimated 148 million voters.

Unprecedented Latino Voter Turnout Plays Critical Role in Early Outcome of the Presidential Election, Market Watch Nov. 5, 2008

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"In Virginia, where the reported margin of victory as of this writing was 120,299, the NALEO Educational Fund estimates that about 67,000 Latinos voted for Senator Obama. In Florida, where the reported margin of victory as of this writing was 178,745, the NALEO Educational Fund's analysis estimates that about 548,000 Latinos voted for Senator Obama."

The Latino vote surprised the skeptics who claimed that president elect Obama would struggle to motivate these citizens.  Clearly he did but their votes were not enough to generate an overall increase according to the final figures.

But look at the turnout figures as actually reported and gathered by David Leip for the Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.

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