Election Post-Mortem, Part II | Blogh

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Post-Mortem, Part II

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 8:55 AM

A thought on turnout: Based on the admittedly unofficial numbers turned in so far, I'm not sure we lived up to the hype. 

We heard a lot of talk about how large turnout was going to be, the long lines at polling stations, etc. But overall, the number of votes cast in the Presidential race appears to be roughly the same as it was last time around. In 2004, some 5,765,764 votes were cast in the presidential race. Last night, the number of votes tallied was 5,744,879.

Of course, last night's numbers aren't official. We're not done counting all the precincts yet -- there are a couple stragglers out there. And doubtless there are provisional ballots to be tabulated and so on. But even factoring those in, it's hard to see how this election amounts to some game-changing shift in turnout. 

Allegheny County, for example, was reporting a total of 646,726 votes cast in the presidential race by 1 a.m. Its official 2004 total, meanwhile, was 645,469.

How to square that with the fact that we really DID have very long lines in some places yesterday? (At my polling station, there was more than a half-hour wait.) I'm guessing a lot of people crashed early on, anxious to finally be heard and fearful of chaos later on. With a couple notable exceptions (like the precincts serving the University of Pittsburgh), I heard very few complaints about long lines as the day went on. 

Also, it seems enthusiasm for this election was uneven. Looking at some of the rural counties that went for the GOP in both elections, it seems that Republican enthusiasm dropped about 10 percentage points. Take Somerset County: In 2004 George W. Bush receieved 23,800 votes ... so far, McCain has logged only 21,650. Obama, meanwhile, has posted almost exactly the same number of votes as Kerry did -- 12,850 as opposed to 12,842. I'm seeing similar patterns in other counties too: The GOP total down about 10 percent, with Democratic numbers holding steady.

The esteemed Chris Briem at Null Space is likely to blast me for mixing official numbers with unofficial numbers. But he too has noticed some anecdotal evidence that the turnout hype may be overblown. 

For now, I'm going to say that the early evidence confirms what we've suspected all along: Democrats were a lot more excited about this election than Republicans were.