US Voter Turnout Lowest
Since 1942
WASHINGTON (AP) - The rate of voter turnout in the midterm elections last November was the lowest in more than 50 years despite successful efforts to register more Americans to vote, according to final figures released Tuesday.
Turnout fell to 36.06% of eligible voters, or 72,450,901 people, which was the lowest rate since 1942, said elections analyst Curtis Gans. He said there was a net increase of 5.5 million Americans registered to vote, largely because of changes made by the National Voter Registration Act.
''The continuing decline in turnout is the central story in my view,'' he said, noting that the political parties continue to lose strength and the tendency of more people to register as independents.
Gans said that voters showed a distaste for highly partisan, negative campaigns for senator in New York, in which Democrat Charles Schumer defeated incumbent Republican Al D'Amato, and for governor in Ohio, where Republican Bob Taft defeated Democrat Lee Fisher.
''You had two very close, very expensive and very nasty races and both of them had lower turnout than the race for governor in New York and the race for Senate in Ohio - which were less expensive, more genteel and had higher turnout,'' said Gans.
Gans said the final turnout figure of 36.06% in the report from his Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, was lower than the 38% reported on the networks on Election Night, which came from the Voter News Service. VNS is a partnership of the ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and Fox television networks and The Associated Press. Gans said he was concerned those reports didn't adequately communicate the continued decline in voter turnout.
''Our estimates on election night are rough estimates and we tell our members to report them as such,'' said Murray Edelman, editorial director of VNS. ''We correctly reported that it was a low turnout. The alternative is to not report the turnout until a day or two after election.''
Edelman noted that VNS' role is to provide the best estimate available of what's going on in the elections ''in a timely manner.''
Other than the dropping rate of voter participation, one of the more significant stories in the final figures was the continuing decline in registration by political party.
Democratic registration fell to an estimated 29.5% of the eligible electorate in the 24 states and District of Columbia that have registration by party, a figure that has been dropping steadily since the 1960s. Republican registration was at 22% of eligible voters, also a lower%age than in past years.
Registration for independent or third party voters has climbed to 13%.