Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Count Every Vote, But not Every Voter

The U.S. Census Bureau publishes estimates of voter registration and turnout in its Current Population Survey following each presidential and off-year Congressional election. For the presidential elections of 2004, 2000, and 1996, voters respectively constituted 63.8%, 59.5%, and 58.4% of the 18+ eligible citizen population. For the off-year elections of 2006, 2002, 1998, and 1994, voters respectively composed 47.8%, 46.1%, 45.3%, and 48.3% of the eligible citizenry.

The turnout trend line in the three previous presidential elections has been up, with a significant 4.3% increase in 2004 over 2000. A fair guess of turnout in 2008 may well exceed 65%.

A two-thirds turnout means that fully one-third of eligible voters will not be counted when the results are tabulated. If 65% vote and if the election is close, it means that just over a third of the eligible electorate will decide the outcome.

Beware of the next president claiming a mandate for his policies.

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