House con­tests ap­pear to have sparked high voter turnout

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Au­drey Hud­son

Voter turnout in non­pres­i­den­tial elec­tions is usu­ally driven by statewide or Se­nate races, but vot­ers on Nov. 7 were un­usu­ally mo­ti­vated by House races, ac­cord­ing to a study by Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity.

“The re­ally sur­pris­ing num­bers are the House races where there wasa­na­tion­al­iza­tionof­cam­paigns,” said Michael McDon­ald, Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the univer­sity’s United States Elec­tion Project.

Mr. McDon­ald, who was part of the se­questered con­sor­tium hired by news or­ga­ni­za­tions on Elec­tion Day to an­a­lyze exit polls, pre­dicted turnout at 39 per­cent, just shy of the ac­tual turnout of 39.7 per­cent of more than 226 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, or about 82 mil­lion votes.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau, 88 mil­lion peo­ple, or 42.3 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, cast bal­lots in the most re­cent non­pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2002, com­pared with 83 mil­lion, or 41.9 per­cent, in 1998. But turnout in bat­tle­ground states was higher than the na­tional av­er­age — and largely fu­eled by House races.

“Base­donpast­trends,weusu­ally don’t see House races mat­ter­ing in terms of turnout,” Mr. McDon­ald said.

Of the at least 29 seats picked up by Democrats, seven came from four states where the party did not field a Se­nate can­di­date — Ken­tucky, In­di­ana, Iowa and North Carolina, al­though Iowa had a gov­er­nor’s race. In­di­ana’s only statewide race was for the Se­nate seat of Repub­li­can Richard G. Lu­gar, in which the Democrats didn’t even field a can­di­date. Nev­er­the­less, 36 per­cent of In­di­ana vot­ers turned out to knock off three in­cum­bent Repub­li­cans.

In Iowa, 48 per­cent of vot­ers turned out to help the Democrats grabt­woRepub­li­can-held­seats,and with 32 per­cent turnout, North Carolina gave one more of its seats to a Demo­crat. In Penn­syl­va­nia, with nearly 43 per­cent turnout, vot­ers gave four more House seats to Democrats and de­feated Repub­li­can Sen. Rick San­to­rum.

“This time around, I would pre­dict 21 per­cent in Ken­tucky, and it looks like 39 per­cent,” said Mr. McDon­ald, where five-term Repub­li­canAn­neM.Northup­was­de­feated.

An­other re­port re­leased Nov. 9, by Amer­i­can Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for the Study of the Amer­i­can Elec­torate, had a slightly higher voter turnout es­ti­mate, be­cause of the in­clu­sion of 4.2 mil­lion ab­sen­tee, pro­vi­sional and mailed-in bal­lots, some of which haven’t been counted yet. TheCSAEs­tudyes­ti­mat­edthat­fi­nal vote num­bers would be about 83 mil­lion bal­lots cast, or 40.4 per­cent of the el­i­gi­ble elec­torate.

Ex­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton, where ab­sen­tee, pro­vi­sion and mail bal­lots were still be­ing counted, “only 21 states re­ported turnout in­creases. Twen­tysix states and the Dis­trict of Columbia re­ported de­clines,” the re­port said.

Repub­li­canslosttwoHous­eseats in Florida, where turnout was 39 per­cent, yet vot­ers elected Repub­li­can Char­lie Crist gov­er­nor. In Ari­zona,where­turnout­was34per­cent, two Repub­li­can seats changed hands, yet Repub­li­can Sen. Jon Kyl was re-elected.

There­was­noSe­nat­er­a­ceinNew Hamp­shire, where vot­ers knocked off the Repub­li­cans in both House races and voted to re-elect De­moc- ratic Gov. John Lynch.

In Cal­i­for­nia, a 38 per­cent turnout re-elected Repub­li­can Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger and Demo­crat­icSen.Dian­neFe­in­stein,and de­feated Rep. Richard W. Pombo, chair­man of the House Re­sources Com­mit­tee.

Democrats also picked up one House seat in Min­nesota, where turnout was the high­est na­tion­wide, at 60 per­cent. Democrats picked up one seat each in Colorado, where turnout was 50 per­cent; Con­necti­cut, where it was 45 per­cent; Kansas, 41 per­cent; Ohio, 45 per­cent; Texas, 32 per­cent and Wis­con­sin, 53 per­cent.

In states where Repub­li­cans faced min­i­mal op­po­si­tion, such as Mis­sis­sippi and Louisiana, turnout was low, at 29 per­cent and 27 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Don­ald Lam­bro con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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