- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The Bush-Gore presidential contest of 2000 lured 86 percent of the nation's registered voters to the polls, a sharp increase over the record 82 percent low of 1996, but far short of the 91 percent peak reached in 1968, the Census Bureau reports.
The bureau's voting-rate figures, which are being released today, are considerably higher that earlier vote counts, and Curtis Gans, head of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Committee for Study of the American Electorate, explains why:
"What is being reported is the voting rate of registered voters, not eligible voters. The census number is based on what people themselves report, and when people are asked if they voted, they tend to say they did. So there is 'overreporting.'"
Mr. Gans notes that according to census figures, there were 111 million votes cast, when the actual ballot count revealed there were 105.6 million. The so-called "official voting rate," which is based on the ballot count, shows that the actual turnout of eligible citizens was 52.9 percent, an increase of roughly 2.3 percent over 1996.
Still, Mr. Gans said, "the census report is valid and useful because it validates voting trends."
Mr. Gans said the bureau figures confirm that an increasing number of women and a decreasing number of young people vote and that with the exception of the last presidential election the voting rate is declining.
"The [voting rate] increase from 1996 to 2000 is probably a function of the fact that the presidential race in 2000 was much closer than the one four years before, and that House and Senate seats were up for grabs," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow and specialist in government studies at the Brookings Institution.
"There was an enormous effort to mobilize support because of the close election and the high stakes, and people sensed voting made a difference. Even so, the voting rate is low by historical standards," he said.
The Census Bureau figures show that the voting rate of all citizens meaning those who were registered to vote and those who failed to register rose from 58 percent in 1996 to 60 percent in 2000. However, the rate of those who registered dipped from 71 percent to 70 percent.
Amie Jamieson, co-author of the census report said, "Most people who are registered to vote actually vote." The likelihood that registered voters will actually go to the polls has remained high over the years, Miss Jamieson said.
The census figures reveal that the District, along with Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, had a turnout rate of "around 70 percent," the nation's highest. Hawaii lagged with a voter-turnout rate of 44 percent.
In general, voting and registration rates were highest in the Midwest and absentee and early voting were most common in the West.
The 2000 election attracted 57 percent of black voters, 4 percentage points more than the 1996 contest. The 62 percent turnout for non-Hispanic whites represented a 1 percentage-point gain.


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