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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Does ’06 Turnout Mean for Dems?

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate has posted its preliminary report on the 2006 turnout, and the numbers may hold some clues for Dems looking to ’08. Overall the report concludes that “a modestly increased percentage of Americans turned out” at polls across the nation — 40.4 percent of eligible citizens, compared to 39.7 percent in the ’02 mid terms. This was the highest percentage since 1982 (42.1%).
Turnout increased in 21 states, but decreased in 26 states and the District of Columbia (CA, OR and WA absentee ballots are still being counted). The five highest turnout rates were recorded in MN, SD, MT, UT and ME, the lowest five in MS, LA, DC, NC, and AZ.
The highest Democratic turnout percentage increases over ’02 were recorded in NE (+10.7%); WI (+14.8%); VA (+13.2%); SD (+9.9%); WY (+9.8%); OH (+9.6%); VT (+8.6%) and NH (+8.6%). The highest Democratic turnout declines were in LA (-8.8); IL (-5.1%); AL (-5.0%); MS (-3.8%); GA (-3.5%); NC (-2.7%); and MA (-2.6%).
The most obvious conclusion is that the GOP GOTV operation praised in the MSM didn’t make a dent in the congressional elections. Even if the GOP did have a superior GOTV operation, it couldn’t overcome the rising tide of discontent or the limitations of Republican candidates. Good GOTV can make a difference in a close election, but not enough when a strong trend is surging.
The Democratic turnout decline in southern states lends some credence to the argument that Democratic resources would be more profitably invested in other regions. However, it could also be argued that these figures indicate not enough effort has been invested in developing southern candidates and campaigns.
Lastly, note that two of the top five turnout states, MN and ME allow voter registration on election day. Having picked up six governorships and nine state legislative chambers, Democrats may now be in a position to enact same day registration bills in more states. Note also that only three states have no voting restrictions on convicted felons or even prisoners, and two of them, ME and VT are top five turnout states.