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North Carolina May Be Exception In Voter Turnout

This story was written by Chris Allred, Technician

North Carolina may have been an exception in an overall normal voter turnout, as a study by American Universitys Center for the Study of the American Electorate estimates that roughly the same proportion of eligible voters voted in this election as did in 2004.

Curtis Gans, an American University political scientist who conducted the study, said this could be attributed to the state's three competitive races.

"All of them were pretty emotional," he said. "The governor's race was the least emotional, but they were all emotional."

Between 126.5 million and 128.5 million people voted, but that would leave turnout at about the same level as 2004, or just one percentage point above it, between 60.7 and 61.7 percent, according to the study.

Turnout was lower, Gans said, because while Democrats turned out in high numbers, it was balanced by an exceptionally low number of Republicans.

Republican voters were down 1.3 percent from 2004, making up 28.7 percent of the electorate, compared to the Democrats' 31.3 percent of eligible voters - up 2.6 percent.

According to New York Times exit polls, 66 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for Obama.

While Gans said that was significant, he said young people voted for Obama not because they align with the Democratic party but because of the party's nominee.

"It has nothing to do with party," he said. "It has everything to do with Obama. This is not a millenial activist generation. This is an Obama-stimulated election."

According to Gans, Republican presidential candidate John McCain's choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate was one of the factors that kept some Republicans at home on Election Day.

"Social conservatives, those who vote gay marriage and abortion rights... didn't see John McCain as one of them," Gans said. "Moderates found the choice of Gov. Palin, both for her point of view and for her lack of essential experience to be president, [concerning]. That drove them away as well as that being a statement of McCain's judgment."

While the Palin pick was an attempt to draw in several segments of the Republican party, Gans said it actually drove some of those groups away.

Potential voters stayed away from the polls, Gans said, if they believed the election had already been decided. In North Carolina, he said there was not that problem, as Obama barely won the state.

Another group that did not turn out for Republicans are "Reagan Democrats," or typically white, working class voters who vote on cultural issues.

"They stayed mostly with the Republican party, this part of the working class, until this election," he said. "In this election, economic issues took priority."

North Carolina had record numbers of early voters, with 2,623,838 turning out, but Gans said it was not significant nationally.

"Early voting on a national basis did not boost turnout," he said.

In 2004 early voting aided the Republicans, and Gans said it helps mobilize the party that has the most enthusiastic voters, which this year was the Democrats.

Brad Trahan, a sophomore in communication who volunteered for Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign, said early voting and Democratic straight-ticket voting was harmful to McCrory's candidacy.

"The people who were running on the Republican party, they could have been elected in tight races," he said.

Gans said early voting could increase instances of voter fraud, and that the most efficient and fraud-proof system would involve a "mandatory, national, biometric ID."

The best way for the nation to vote, Gas said, is to have one Election Day but have enough voting equipment to handle large numbers of voters.

"Every state should have adequate polling machinery that can handle a high turnout election of 65 percent or more of eligible voters so that you never have long lines," he said. "It's better to have more equipment than you need in low-turnout elections in order for you to have adequate amount of equipment for high-turnout elections."

Trahan said he early voted because of necessity, but he would prefer not to have early voting to avoid fraud.

One-stop registration is too lenient about checking proof of residency information, he said.

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