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Greatest Turnout Ever? (Updated)
Posted by: MichaelW on Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The claim going around is that yesterday's election witnessed the highest number of voters ever, and the highest percentage of the electorate since the 60's:
More than 130 million people turned out to vote Tuesday, the most ever to vote in a presidential election.

With ballots still being counted in some precincts into Wednesday morning, an estimated 64 percent of the electorate turned out, making 2008 the highest percentage turnout in generations.

In 2004, 122.3 million voted in what was then the highest recorded turnout in the contest between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).
But the popular vote totals don't seem to add up to anything like 130 Million. Instead, from the numbers I've seen, the turnout didn't even surpass 2004, coming in at about 119 Million.

Are there other numbers out there that I'm not privy to? Specifically, where does the extra 11 Million or so come from? Anybody?

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MORE:

The total numbers just keep going up!
My preliminary national turnout rate for those eligible to vote is 62.6% or 133.3 million ballots cast. This number may yet rise further as absentee ballots arrive and provisional ballots are processed, particularly in some western states. Until these outstanding ballots are counted, I would like to provide a conservative estimate. This turnout rate would be the largest since the 62.8% of 1964. If we top that number, which we might, the next highest turnout rate would be 63.8% in 1960.
According to Dr. McDonald's "conservative" estimates, then, there are some 15 Million votes waiting to be counted in absentee and provisional ballots. Really?

Somehow or another, MSNBC's First Read took a look at Dr. McDonald's offering and reached an even higher number:
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. Michael 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.
Capt. Ed wryly observes:
Apparently, no one at MS-NBC can do math. “A ton of vote missing on the West coast”? There would have to be 20 million votes missing in order to get from 117 million to 137 million. California has reported 95% of its precincts and counted almost 10 million votes. At best, they’ll get another 500K or so.

Maybe Dr. McDonald got his data from ACORN.
He also notes that absentee ballots must be received on or before election day to be counted.

Accordingly, the idea that there are twice as many votes left to be counted as the total for the entire state of California simply does not compute.

If it were true, however, that there are still two Californias worth of votes to tally, then couldn't we see the election results change? The difference in popular vote between the candidates is less than 10 Million, and fewer than 200,000 in several states. Depending on how they were to break down, McCain may have potentially won the election after all.

Psyche! Quit your dreaming. The professor's numbers are dramatically wrong and the election is over. Why the numbers are so wrong is an interesting question, but ultimately it won't change anything.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Specifically, where does the extra 11 Million or so come from?
ACORN
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Could be that 11 million didn’t vote for anyone for president.
 
Written By: Arcs
URL: http://
Maybe, Arcs. That would be awfully high, but perhaps that is the answer. I just can’t find the numbers anywhere.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://qando.net
Or they voted Independent/Libertarian/Green/Constitution for Pres...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
where does the extra 11 Million or so come from?
Fictional characters (Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck), dead people, the offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys...
 
Written By: ACORN
URL: http://
Two thoughts:

#1. Early voting. The maps aren’t counting those, because those weren’t happening on election day. Remember, it exists in a minority of states.

I think that’s why in GA, McCain is ahead by 200K votes, but it’s not being called.

#2: Absentee ballots.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Or they voted Independent/Libertarian/Green/Constitution for Pres...
10% of the voters? Not bloody likely.
#1. Early voting. The maps aren’t counting those, because those weren’t happening on election day. Remember, it exists in a minority of states.

I think that’s why in GA, McCain is ahead by 200K votes, but it’s not being called.

#2: Absentee ballots.
These numbers are all counted in the results already.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://qando.net
10% of the voters? Not bloody likely.
I dunno... I think there’s a good chance that a lot of "conservative" voters might have said "screw it, I’m voting my conscious today"...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
I dunno... I think there’s a good chance that a lot of "conservative" voters might have said "screw it, I’m voting my conscious today"...
Not just conservatives, I’m sure.
 
Written By: Arcs
URL: http://
According to http://edition.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/president/allcandidates/

About 1.5 million votes were cast for not-Obamccain
 
Written By: Gregoir
URL: http://
From Virginia Board of Elections statewide results:
Precincts Reporting:
2,473 of 2,497 (99.03%)

Voter Turnout:
3,472,949 of 4,912,971 active voters (70.68%)
3,472,949 of 5,034,660 total voters (68.98%)
The difference between the Active and Total numbers is composed of "Age 17" registrations and Inactive voters, who have not voted in the last 2 general elections.
 
Written By: nmj3e
URL: http://
Presumably this will be settled definitively in a day or two.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Given the work McDonald has done on early voting and studies of elections, I do not think someone just looking at turnouts and not delving into how things are counted is really is able to conclusively judge his claims. Often absentees aren’t counted if the races are wide enough (but are included in voter turnout figures).

I’m also curious about Georgia’s early votes not yet counted. I had predicted a bigger wave for Obama, adding the Dakotas, Montana, and Georgia to the Obama count. I was a bit surprised by the margin originally put for Georgia, and now I’m puzzled that AP doesn’t call it, and the other news outlets do. I suspect AP is just playing it very safe. Last night wasn’t very surprising — which in this election year was itself a surprise!
http://scotterb.wordpress.com
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Given the work McDonald has done on early voting and studies of elections, I do not think someone just looking at turnouts and not delving into how things are counted is really is able to conclusively judge his claims.
Yeah, Michael. How dare you question your betters? That would be like some guy sitting in a university office in Maine endlessly pontificating that he knows more about a country he’s never stepped foot in than do a whole slew of smart guys who’ve spent years there. Remember your place.

/sarc

 
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