WASHINGTON (AP) -- Driven by an intense race for
the presidency, a greater percentage of Americans voted Tuesday than at any time
in more than three decades.
Figures tabulated Wednesday by The Associated Press showed that 114.9 million
people had voted with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
However, the total figure is closer to 117.8 million based on estimates of
uncounted absentee and mail ballots in California, Oregon and Washington, said
Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American
Another 2 million votes remain, given incomplete tabulations in some states,
provisional ballots and other absentee ballots, he said.
Gans put the total turnout at nearly 120 million people. That represents just
under 60 percent of eligible voters -- the highest percentage turnout since
1968, Gans said
One county clerk in Illinois spoke for poll workers across the country on
Election Day when he summed up the turnout with one word:
Four years ago, in the election that led to Republican George W. Bush's
narrow victory over Democrat Al Gore, slightly more than 54 percent of eligible
voters, or about 105.4 million, voted.
President Clinton's 1996 re-election bid drew just 49 percent of eligible
voters, about 96.3 million.
But his 1992 challenge to the first President Bush brought out 55.2 percent
of eligible voters, or about 104.4 million.
Officials had eyes on whether Tuesday's turnout would rival the 1960
benchmark, when about two-thirds of eligible voters came out to back either
Democrat John Kennedy or Republican Richard Nixon.
At least six states -- Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee
and Virginia -- and the District of Columbia set new voter-turnout highs,
according to Gans' analysis.
"On both sides, the presidency of George Bush was a lightning rod,"
he said. "For those who supported him, they supported him for traditional
values, strong leadership, the war on terrorism and some rejection of things
that the Democrats advocate," such as abortion rights and gay civil unions.
"On the other side, it was the war on Iraq, debt, the feeling he hadn't
been candid with the American people, too conservative values and division in
the country," Gans said.
An estimated 9 percent of voters Tuesday were 18 to 24, about the same
proportion of the electorate as in 2000, exit polls indicated. The youth vote
accounted for 17 percent of turnout when broadened to the 18-to-29 age group,
also about the same share as in the last presidential race.
Still, the actual number of young voters was up, given that overall voter
turnout was higher.
When it comes to voting, the United States still has some distance to go to
match the participation of voters in other democracies.
But by U.S. standards, Tuesday shaped up as an impressive show.
In California, the estimated voter turnout was 12 million, a record for the
"It's a landslide of people coming out, which is nice," voter
Theresa Cocco, 45, a business owner, said outside the Surfing Museum in
Huntington Beach. "It renews my faith in society."