Turnout in 2006, using early voting statistics

I posted the following to Rick Hasen’s listserv. I thought the readers here might be interested if they don’t follow that list.


We have a release coming out this afternoon making a similar point to your own. We look specifically at early voting numbers in Oregon (http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/ ) and compare this to 2002 and 2004.

The numbers thus far track 2002 almost exactly.

Reporters seem to be missing two things:

(1) There are more early voters this cycle because there are more opportunities to vote early. Doug Chapin can chime in here, but four more states adopted no-excuse absentee balloting in 2006. A larger number adopted either in-person or no-excuse absentee in 2004. And every example we’ve seen shows rapid early adoption of early voting, then topping out at some threshold.

(2) But more importantly, the level of early voting relative to total turnout is higher in a midterm. Early voters constitute a larger proportion of the voters in lower profile, lower intensity contests, because early voters tend to be more partisan, more informed, and more habitual voters.

Ok, so now we’re more in the realm of speculation, but let’s add Michael’s observations about the Pew study. *If* it is true that voters are expressing a higher level of interest in the outcome, and *if* this reflects nationalization of the contest by the two parties, then this will only magnify the effect in (2).

So I am with Michael–I am forecasting turnout in Oregon at around the same level in 2002. My out on a limb forecast for the proportion of early voters is 30% of the total turnout.

Paul Gronke
Director, Early Voting Information Center
Reed College
Portland, OR

Michael McDonald Tue, Oct 31, 2006 at 10:35 AM
To: election-law
For those of you interested, my 2006 turnout rate prediction and the
reasoning behind it, can be found at the Washington Post’s Think Tank Town


For those turnout junkies, you can find early voting statistics for some
states, and based on previous early vote turnout, one can make fairly
reliable projections on total turnout within those states:

Iowa (on track for turnout in the high 30s)

Oregon (on track for turnout in the low 40s)

Tennessee (on track for turnout in the high 40s)

Texas (on track for turnout in the mid 30s)