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.