Report: Turnout is likely to be low Hed goes right heregggg


Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:29 p.m.
WASHINGTON - All signs point to relatively low voter turnout this year, says a new report released as the major political parties are stepping up their efforts to reduce that trend for midterm elections.
Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, said he expects turnout on Tuesday will be as low or lower than it was in 1998, when 35.3 percent of the voting age population cast ballots. That was the lowest midterm turnout since 1942, he said.
"Two things could propel turnout to be higher - competitive races in major states and the economy," Gans said. But he said low primary turnout this year, combined with the drop in voter registration and polls showing little voter interest, suggest turnout will be low.
Turnout in the 38 states that held statewide primaries for both parties this year was 17.1 percent of voting age population. That was higher than 1998, but still the second lowest this century.
The major political parties are planning an aggressive drive to send voters to the polls. Democrats hope to build on their success in 2000, while Republicans are increasing their face-to-face contact with voters in an effort to emulate the success of Democrats and the AFL-CIO in getting out the vote.
Another indication of a likely low voter turnout is the drop in voter registration.
Registration has slipped this election year after a surge that occurred in the late 1990s with the National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor Voter law, which made it easier for people to qualify to vote, a new report says.
National registration likely will be down from 64.6 percent of the voting age population in 1998 to 63.2 percent this year, according to estimates based on registration figures reported by 26 states and the District of Columbia. The summary was released Thursday by the committee.
The motor voter law, which allowed people to register to vote when they got their driver's license, "opened the opportunity for people to register more automatically than they had before," Gans said. "In 1996 and 1998, we had a small surge in registration."
Democratic registration has continued to drop, Republican registration is expected to decrease slightly and independent registration will have climbed to its highest level ever, according to the report.
The committee estimated that about 30 percent of voters were registered Democrats, 23 percent were registered Republicans and 16 percent registered independents. Estimates based on states that require people to qualify by party suggest the remainder were not registered.
About 136 million people will have registered when totals come in from all the states, according to committee estimates.

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