Highest turnout in decades; young voters help numbers

Jennifer Nacin

Those who voted in the 2004 election made history Tuesday.

The voter turnout for the election was the highest it has been since 1968, according to the Associated Press. With 99 percent of the national precincts reporting, 114.9 million people were counted as voting Tuesday, compared with the 105.4 million people who voted in the 2000 election.

It was also reported that approximately 120 million ballots — less than 60 percent of the country’s eligible voters — were cast in total, including the 5.5 to 6 million provisional and absentee ballots that will soon be counted.

Anthony Carroll, voter outreach coordinator for the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, said Iowa voter turnout reached 1,490,531 votes. This number surpassed the predicted turnout of 1.4 million Iowa votes, he said, although all numbers are unofficial until further examination and addition of absentee and provisional ballots.

“By law, voting-turnout numbers are unofficial until the canvass has been completed,” Carroll said. “Even though these are unofficial, it bodes well for a record turnout in Iowa.”

Adam Alexander, spokesman for the New Voters Project, said the number of voters aged 18 to 29 was reported to have increased tremendously compared to the number of young voters in 2000.

“Young voters got a larger slice of a bigger pie,” Alexander said. “What that means is that there are more older votes in terms of the population, but the percentage of voters who were 18 to 29 still increased. And that’s really exciting.”

There were 4.6 million more youth voters than in the previous election, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement Web site. The Circle site also reported this was the only age group to prefer the Democratic party in the election.

Youth voter turnout in 2000 was 42.3 percent, Alexander said; this year, it was 51.6 percent, a increase of 9.3 percent. The number of young people that voted as a percentage of all voters increased as well, from 16.8 percent to 18.4 percent, he said.

Seth Landau, ISU campus coordinator for the New Voters Project, said there seemed to be a definite increase in the amount of student voting in the Ames area.

“In the five main student precincts, about 2.5 times more people voted than in 2000,” Landau said. “That doesn’t count satellite voting and early voting. It appears that there was a huge student turnout at Iowa State, but it’s difficult to track numerically at the moment.”

Landau said it’s almost impossible for Iowa State to tell at this point what the youth voter turnout was in Iowa compared to other states. There is no complete data available at this point.

Mary Mosiman, Story County auditor, said turnout increased in Story County by 8,814 votes. She said out of 68,899 registered voters in the county, 44,306 voted in this election — a 64.3 percent turnout. In 2000, voter turnout was 58.7 percent of registered voters, or 35,492 people, Mosiman said.

“I’m going to say it was largely due to the Florida situation in 2000, where it took a lengthy amount of time for the nation to know who our president was,” Mosiman said. “The thing that helps prevent that is turnout.”

Mosiman said the absentee count for this election was up by 5,552 ballots this year compared to the last election. She said 15,215 absentee ballots, or 22 percent of registered Story County votes, were returned to the office.

Mosiman said the auditor’s office received a total of 463 provisional ballots as of Tuesday. The auditor’s office will begin to examine the provisional and absentee ballots next Tuesday at 1 p.m. and will have official voting statistics shortly thereafter.