2008 Voter Turnout Didn’t Break 1960 Record, Bloomberg Reports, But Discounts How Voters Were Routinely Disenfranchised and Discouraged in 1960

Obama Won Without Surge in Voter Turnout Experts Had Predicted: “About 130 million Americans voted, up from 122 million in 2004. But with a little more than 61 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, the 2008 results didn’t match the record 63.8 percent turnout rate that helped propel President John F. Kennedy to victory in 1960,” Bloomberg reports. Andrew Sullivan, who links to the Bloomberg article in his blog, points out that “Obama’s 7 point victory margin was largely accomplished by former Republican voters staying home.”

But there are different ways of analyzing voter turnout. In 1960, many people, especially minorities, who were technically eligible to vote, weren’t registered and were discouraged from voting. They faced poll taxes and discriminatory literacy tests, such as being required to recite parts of the U.S. Constitution to qualify to vote if you were black. In sharp contrast, in 2008, in North Carolina for example, it is estimated that 94 percent of eligible African Americans were registered to vote before election day. And as Rev. Dr. William Barber points out, a record 74% of African American registered voters cast their ballots, compared to 59% in 2004. In North Carolina, there is now a powerful new progressive coalition of more than a million voters looking for change, he writes.

Careful analysis will probably find powerful new coalitions for change in other swing states as well.

I think it’s false to assume that voter turnout didn’t break records in 2008.


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