Is turnout down nationwide?

I’ve followed Mike and Thad’s vacation, er, research trip around California closely. They noted low voter turnout in the Los Angeles area. Their observations are confirmed in newspapers across the state: SJ Mercury News, Modesto Bee, Santa Cruz Sentinel, and the Contra Costa Times. (Most stories also highlight the counting problems that have bedeviled a few jurisdictions.)

Is California’s low voter turnout an indication of more widespread voter disaffection and apathy?

Do a quick search on Google News for “low voter turnout”, and you’ll find out that many states experienced low turnout in recent primary elections. Oregon’s turnout last month (in an election conveniently witnessed by the peripatetic Professor Hall) was the lowest since the adoption of voting by mail. Mississippi, Alabama, New Jersey, and North Carolina all reported low turnout.

What does this tell us about the election in November? Which party will be hurt by lower voter turnout? Can energetic campaigns and a national debate over Iraq, taxes, and the deficit draw more citizens to the polls?