Voter Turnout in 2016 Appears About the Same as in 2012

Yes, that’s right.  One fact obscured by analysis that focuses only on the Trump and Clinton vote totals is that overall turnout this year is likely to end up being essentially the same as in 2012.  A big difference is that this year, there were at least 6.5 million votes cast for third-party or independent candidates, while in 2012, there were only 2.24 million such votes (2012 final results are here).

In addition, as more people are becoming aware, the number of ballots still to be counted post-Election Day is large and growing each election.  Current estimates put it at 5-7 million.  This number has been increasing, as more states go to all vote-by-mail (three states now), absentee ballot rules become more liberalized, and more ballots are cast as provisional ballots than before the Help America Vote Act was enacted.

Turnout in 2012 was 58.6% of eligible voters.  Based on the indispensable Election Project website, run by Michael McDonald, the current estimate for 2016 once all the ballots are counted is 57.9%.  Turnout was higher in 2008 and 2004 – political polarization increases turnout – but other than those years, we have to go back to 1968 to find higher turnout elections.

 

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