Commentary Magazine


Re: Unhistoric Unturnout

I’ve been getting a lot of angry emails about my post claiming the 2008 election will not even match the turnout in 2004. I couldn’t understand the vituperation until I saw this from Rich Lowry on the Corner:

I haven’t closely examined the numbers myself, but this is what First Read says: Highest Turnout Rate Since ’08 — 1908: Provided the number stands, the turnout rate for yesterday’s election was the highest in 100 years, according to the estimate from turnout guru Dr. Mike McDonald at George Mason University. Almost 137 million (136,631,825) went to the polls — 64.1% of the voting-eligible population. 1960 saw 63.7% of the populace go out to vote; In 1908, 65.7% voted. It was, of course, the most people ever to go to the polls topping 2004′s 122 million. That’s 12% increase from 2004. For those wondering why the current total vote in the presidential adds up to approximately 117 million, note that it’s going to climb. There is still a ton of vote missing on the West coast.

First Read, MSNBC’s morning political brief, may say this, and so may Professor McDonald, but there’s something very screwy here. According to him, there are something like 20 million outstanding votes the day after the election. That’s something like 15 percent of the overall electorate. Is that really possible? In the days following the 2004 election, 4 million votes were added to the overall total from various straggling sources.

If in fact it is true that we now have an electoral system in which the outstanding vote total after Election Day is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent nationwide, there is a disaster waiting to happen if we see another close race soon that hinges on a West Coast state with a “ton” of outstanding ballots.

For the record, as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier–it’s fine with me if the turnout is 64 percent, the highest since 1908.