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US VOTER TURNOUT November 12, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics, US Politics.
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Apparently less than 60% of eligible voters chose, or were able, to vote in the US. While a figure approaching 126 million plus people voting is considerable, yet it does not represent the potential voters out of a total population of 315 million people.

This is especially true since the outcome in terms of the national vote is very close, while the Electoral College, as predicted gave a decisive victory to President Obama. Politico provides the overall picture, without addressing the issue of turnout or votes that third party candidates attracted. According to the figures shown of those who voted for the major party candidates which represented 120.5 million voters nation-wide, 51.3% voted for Obama and 48.7% voted for Romney. This represents a difference of 3.25 million people supporting Obama or 2.6%.  In the Electoral College, Obama won 332 “votes”, or 126 more than Romney in numbers, 61.7% of the total. This disparity is accounted for by the fact the Electoral College is determined on winner take all basis for all, except two states.

Based on preliminary figures, Josh Lederman for Associate Press reported:

In most states, the numbers were even lower than in 2004, said Curtis Gans, director of American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate. Every state but Iowa is showing a smaller turnout than in 2008, Gans said. Still, the full picture may not be known for weeks because much of the counting takes place after Election Day.

“This was a major plunge in turnout nationally,” said Gans, who estimated about 126 million Americans voted, for an overall turnout rate of about 57.5 percent.

131 million people voted in 2008. And yet, post Citizens United, more money was spent on this election than any other presidential election. The New York Times editorial argued the money spent on television was ineffective:

The millionaires and billionaires who gave nearly $500 million to independent groups in the race to elect Mitt Romney and other Republicans not only bet on the wrong party, they bet on the wrong tactic. They believed that an endless drumbeat of television advertisements would be enough to drive voters away from President Obama and Democratic policies.

It did not work. Democrats not only won the White House, they increased their majority in the Senate and added to their numbers in the House. Although Democratic outside groups spent more than $200 million on ads, the tactic that proved most effective — particularly as practiced by the Obama campaign and the party — was identifying voters in key states and getting them to the polls.

There is something supremely cynical about the notion among Republican conservatives that they could use their ability to make unlimited contributions to “super PACs” and shadowy social-welfare groups to buy an election. It views voters as a flock of sheep, easily hypnotized by misleading ads, willing to believe whatever wealthy industrialists tell them about taxes, jobs and health care.

There are other factors at work this time, other than the politics of the Electoral College, which might make voters in Texas, for example, feel less relevant to the result and where the turnout was reported to have dropped by 11%. Associated Press also reported:

Experts calculate turnout in different ways based on who they consider eligible voters. A separate, preliminary estimate from George Mason University’s Michael McDonald put the 2012 turnout rate at 60 percent of eligible voters. That figure was expected to be revised as more precincts reported and absentee votes were counted.

The biggest plunge by far, according to the American University analysis, came in Eastern Seaboard states still reeling from the devastation from Superstorm Sandy, which wiped out power for millions and disrupted usual voting routines. Fifteen percent fewer voters cast ballots in New York this year than in 2008. In New Jersey, it was almost 12 percent. The gap in New Jersey could narrow in the coming days because elections officials have given displaced residents in some areas until Friday to cast special email ballots.

Best efforts be darned, making it to the polls in the wake of Sandy may have simply been too much for some affected voters. In Hoboken, N.J., Anthony Morrone said he’s never missed a vote — until now.

“No time, no time to vote, too much to do,” said Morrone, 76, as he surveyed the exterior of his home: a pile of junked refrigerators, a car destroyed by flooding and a curbside mountain of waterlogged debris.

In other areas not affected by the storm, a host of factors could have contributed to waning voter enthusiasm, Gans said. The 2012 race was one of the nastiest in recent memory, leaving many voters feeling turned off. With Democrats weary from a difficult four years and Republicans splintered by a divisive primary, neither party was particularly enthused about their own candidate. Stricter voting restrictions adopted by many states may also have kept some voters away from the polls.

“Beyond the people with passion, we have a disengaged electorate,” Gans said. “This was a very tight race, there were serious things to be decided.”

Decided they were — by the millions of voters who, in many cases, braved all kinds of inconveniences to make sure their voices were heard. Some voters in South Carolina’s Richland County waited more than four hours to vote, and leaders from both parties blamed the delays on broken voting machines. Officials in Virginia and New Hampshire reported many voters were still waiting to vote when polls closed in the evening. In major battleground states like Ohio and Florida, lines snaked back and forth as voters waited patiently to cast their ballots.

Eugene Dubbous interviewed on Press TV explains the reasons for the voter turnout:

Florida was a swing State and the turnout was higher than other States, but the system seems both designed to frustrate the voters and democracy. Lizette Alvarez reported in The New York Times:

But in Florida, time stood still — until Saturday. After days of counting absentee ballots, the official results are in, at last: To the surprise of no one, Mr. Obama narrowly beat out his Republican rival 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of about 74,000 votes.

The state is consumed by finger-pointing and finger-wagging as election officials, lawmakers and voters try to make sense of what went wrong on Election Day and during early voting. A record number of Florida voters — 8.4 million, or 70 percent of those registered — cast ballots. Of those, 2.1 million people voted early, and 2.4 million sent absentee ballots.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said he planned to meet with the state’s top election official, Ken Detzner, the secretary of state, to see how Florida could improve the process. And the mayor of Miami-Dade County, where voters endured the state’s longest lines, has formed a task force to find out what went wrong.

“We could have done better; we will do better,” Mr. Detzner told CNN on Friday.

In some cities, voters waited as long as seven hours to vote on both Election Day and the eight days of early voting before it. While precincts in one area were nearly empty, others were overrun. In Miami-Dade, the last people to vote actually did so on Wednesday morning, two hours after President Obama was declared the winner and following Mr. Romney’s concession speech.

A few counties also grappled with a larger than usual number of absentee ballots, including a wave delivered at the last minute. The late crush of absentee ballots came after election officials, under pressure from a Democratic Party lawsuit, opted to allow voters to cast absentee ballots in person on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Miami-Dade County received about 54,000 absentee ballots in the final days, which slowed the counting process considerably, the local election supervisor said.

Mr. Detzner attributed the long lines to the turnout and the lengthy ballot, which included multiple races and 11 proposed constitutional amendments.

But Democrats also faulted the decision by Florida’s Republican-led Legislature and Mr. Scott to change the state’s election law and shorten early voting from 14 days to 8 days, a move they said was meant to discourage turnout out among Democratic supporters. Minorities — and African-Americans in particular — vote early in disproportionately higher numbers.

Because early voting can only be held, by law, at libraries, election offices and city halls, counties have a limited number of sites they can use. When lines became too long, many people skipped early voting and decided to vote on Election Day.

Last Saturday, when lines outside some places wrapped around buildings and scores of voters had their cars towed, Mr. Scott was asked to use his emergency powers to extend early voting, but he declined.

Fair Vote has suggested a set of solutions to address the problem of voting in the exceptional nation, perhaps in activities other than democractic expression and practice. President Obama expressed the throw away line that something should be done about the waiting time. The reality is nothing will be done. It is too much fun to win Florida, with a population of 19 million people by 74,000 votes.

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