Untitled The Surge That Wasn't


It has been widely and loudly touted that there was a substantial surge in voting in the
United States in the election of 2008. There was in influx, it is said, of new voters, ostensibly
minorities and young people. This has been attributed to an energized electorate which therewith
sent Barack Obama into the White House. However, whatever validity can be laid to such assertions,
the actual state votes cast that year seem to indicate something if not quite different than that,
at least a challenge to this conventional wisdom.

In 28 states, there were, in reality, fewer votes cast in 2008 for President than had been cast
in those states four years earlier. Short of survey research, specualation on that trend may lack
verification, but some conclusions can be suggested. What is indisputable is that what is popularly
put forward is without foundation.

The state by state break down of the 2008 vote is as follows:

State 2004 2008 v ^

ALABAMA 1870000 2066000 ^
ALASKA 302000 217000 V *
ARIZONA 1998000 1863000 V *
ARKANSAS 1043000 1041000 V *
CALIFORNIA 12256000 10820000 V *
COLORADO 2103000 2055000 V *
CONNECTICUT 1551000 1537000 V *
DELAWARE 372000 399000 ^
DC 224000 225000 ^
FLORIDA 7549000 7935000 ^
GEORGIA 3380000 3813000 ^
HAWAII 425000 408000 V *
IDAHO 590000 532000 V *
ILLINOIS 5256000 5119000 V *
INDIANA 2500000 2690000 ^
IOWA 1500000 1490000 V *
KANSAS 1170000 1189000 V *
KENTUCKY 1883000 1790000 V *
LOUISIANA 1932000 1929000 V *
MAINE 727000 591000 V *
MARYLAND 2359000 2277000 V *
MASS 2875000 2932000 ^
MICHIGAN 4890000 4885000 V *
MINNESOTA 2792000 2847000 ^
MISSISSIPPI 1220000 1197000 V *
MISSOURI 2704000 2889000 ^
MONTANA 440000 445000 ^
NEBRASKA 767000 755000 V *
NEVADA 815000 942000 ^
NEW HAMP 672000 607000 V *
NEW JERSEY 3581000 3597000 ^
NEW MEXICO 747000 789000 ^
NEW YORK 7387000 6960000 V *
NORTH CAR 3596000 4170000 ^
NORTH DAK 317000 303000 V *
OHIO 5601000 4961000 V *
OKLAHOMA 1463000 1467000 ^
OREGON 1840000 1591000 V *
PENN 5732000 5769000 ^
RHODE IS 429000 423000 V *
SOUTH CAR 1599000 1760000 ^
SOUTH DAK 372000 373000 ^
TENNESSEE 2420000 2505000 ^
TEXAS 7369000 8080000 ^
UTAH 905000 859000 V *
VERMONT 305000 265000 v *
VIRGINIA 3171000 3336000 ^
WASHINGTON 2815000 1600000 V *
WEST VIRG 750000 690000 V *
WISCONSIN 2968000 2971000 ^
WYOMING 238000 241000 ^

UNITED STATES 11500000 11900000

(all figures are rounded from Federal Election Commission)

Among the most repeated assertions has been that African American voter turn-out was up dramatically
on the energy generated by an African American candidate. That may explain the big boost in
turn-out in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, along with smaller rises in votes totals in South Carolina,
and Virginia (some of that may stem from incresased federal employment in some of those areas), but it
does not explain the substantive decline in voting in Mississippi or Maryland.

Florida's big jump in voting would be due to the booming population there, and that of Texas, perhaps
to the boom and to immigration, but in California, voting fell by some million and a half voters.
New York and Ohio, Oregon and Washington suffered huge drops in turn-out. Louisiana had a decline
which can in part be blamed on the lingering impact of Katrina. Even the total increase in voting across
the entire nation was only a paltry four million.

This may not address the assertion that there was a big jump in youthful voting. Little in the raw
vote totals shed much light on that. What might be entered into speculation is a pattern of decline
in many states which normally trend Republican. Perhaps a GOP electorate weary of the spending
binge on Bush compliance with the lack of Congressional fiscal restraint, rebounded against a
candidate it found even less energized by than Bush (even with Palin on the ticket). If that is the case,
or to any extent is may be, the notion held by some that the results of 2008 may reflect some
fundamental realignment away from the Republicans would be a bit shortsighted. That may be behind
the range of phenomena we have seen from the results of the 2010 elections to the Tea Party. Policy
ramifications would also be highly speculative. Republicans who could not bring themselves to vote
for McCain, have had a rude awakening.

One point is clear, however. There was not a surge of voter turnout in 2008 as we are regularly told
occured.

Ronald Gordon Ziegler
May 2011