There are many reasons why Senator Barack Obama became President-Elect Barack Obama, but was one of those reasons a higher voter turnout? Don’t count on it. Looking at Wikipedia’s page for the 2004 Presidential election we can see that the Bush vs. Kerry election saw some 121 million (121,069,054 to be exact) people turn out to vote. Looking at CNN.com’s coverage of the 2008 election we can count some 120 million (120,366,599 to be exact) people turning out to vote for the Obama vs. McCain contest.
Not only is that not an increased voter turnout, but it’s lower than the last election! Sure, there may be some absentee ballots that need to be counted and after a recount here and there the total number of voters in 2008 might go up a few thousand, but even if the total number of votes cast should rise some astronomical number to 125 million, that’s still NOT the bigger turnout that all of the pundits (and the politicians) expected for this election cycle.
This tells us a few things. First, there was NOT some large groundswell of voter motivation to go out and vote in the most historic election of our time. Second, if the electorate remained essentially the same, then the inherent voter apathy in America was not changed in this election (which is a damn shame). Third, those who voted in 2004 and then voted again in 2008 must have been more likely to be open to the idea of voting for a different party. Remember, McCain only lost by about 7 points (or about 8 million votes).
While that is a significant number of voters, let’s hope that history remembers this election in a realistic view. Yes, 2008 was an historic election for any number of reasons – but not for bringing out more voters to the polls or energizing the electorate.
Mike P says
You’re comparing the final count from 2004 to the count only two days after the 2008 election. And one day later, the “official” total is 123,685,145 (per USA Today), already higher than the 2004 total with absentee and provisional ballots and some precincts still not included. I don’t think turnout will reach the 64% that was predicted when only 88% of returns were in, but it will certainly eclipse 2004, which was a high turnout in its own right.
tOM Trottier says
It’s not just total numbers. The voter turnout among blacks is likely the highest ever, while many white voters stayed home. There was a tremendous effort by Obama supporters to get out their vote.
What would get more voters out everywhere is when states adopt the rule that their electoral votes will all be cast in favor of the winner of the most votes nation-wide. See
Not only will this eliminate injustices like Bush winning when Gore got more votes, but election campaigns will not focus all their efforts and ads on “battleground” states, but aim their campaigns across the country, involving every citizen.
Everyone should understand these numbers are from early in the morning on November 6th. The latest update shows that another 2 million or so votes were cast in 2008 than in 2004, so the premise of the post still stands – this election did not bring out droves of Americans to vote.
Sure, certain subsections came out in greater numbers (blacks) while others did not come out as strong (evangelicals). But this post doesn’t talk about subsections within the electorate, rather the electorate as a whole.
And I couldn’t disagree more about the National Popular Vote. The National Popular Vote is in direct opposition to the founding principles of the United States; namely that instead of being areas or regions within a national government, the national government is created by and for the varied smaller states within it. This country’s founding documents support state strength – it’s written into the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.
Also, the idea that candidates would “aim their campaigns across the country, involving every citizen,” is disproven by a simple look at the numbers. Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, Alaska, Hawaii, etc. would receive almost no campaign stops because they don’t have a great deal of votes. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, and some parts of Texas would receive the bulk of the campaign visits (and the campaign advertising dollars).
The National Popular Vote is wrong for America and wrong for everyone not living in a major metropolitan area.
The best Electoral College reform is to take on the current system used in Maine and Nebraska. As the Constitution states, Electors are assigned to each state in a number equal to the total number of Senators and Representatives in the state. The Maine and Nebraska system logically assigns two of their electoral votes (representing the states’ senators) to the winner of the popular vote. Each additional electoral vote is assigned according to who wins Congressional districts.
This is the absolute best path forward if we are to move forward with a reform that celebrates both equality AND stays within the founding documents and spirit of the United States.