Heavy turnout has become the biggest news in this election. CNN reports expected turnouts of 76% for Missouri, 75% for Virginia, 78% for Kansas, 80% for Ohio, and 68% for Texas. However, these numbers are both deflated and inflated.

Inflated, because record primary voting, increased vote registrations, more small campaign donors and unrealistic hope are rampant among voting officials this year, creating the false expectation of a massive turnout.

Deflated, because they consider the “voting-age population”, consisting of everyone age 18 and older residing in the United States. This includes persons ineligible to vote, mainly non-citizens and ineligible felons, and excludes overseas eligible voters. Since early 1970s, these three factors have changed the profile of the american population: more americans live overseas, prison population doubled, and immigrant, non-citizen population has quadrupled.

The United States Elections Project recalculated turnouts taking in consideration the “voting-eligible population”, and found that recent turnouts are in line with those from 1970s and 80s.

VEP x VAP turnout

VEP x VAP turnout

Still, even considering the eligible voters, the numbers are expected to be huge this time. Nationwide, it was predicted a turnout reaching about 64% of the eligible voters, a number that

would roughly match the 63.8 percent turnout in the 1960 race between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon and rank just below the 65.7 percent turnout of the 1908 presidential contest between William Howard Taft and William Jennings Bryan, he said.

But it would not come close to attaining the astonishing 81.3 percent turnout recorded in the Civil War era contest between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1860.

Politico had announced the election of the century:

Undoubtedly, more people will vote than the 60 percent who turned out four years ago, which was the highest rate since 1968. The question is, how many more? If participation tops the 1960 level of 64 percent, then we must go all the way back to 1908 — literally a century of American politics — to find the next highest rate: 66 percent.


Turnout by eligible voters

Turnout by eligible voters

[Source: Dr. Michael McDonald, with pre-1948 turnout rates from Walter Dean Burnham, Professor Emeritus at University of Texas, Austin.]

McDonald already has some estimates for turnouts across states, with numbers peaking at 79% for Oregon and 77% for Minnesota, down to 54% at Utah and Texas and 50% for District of Columbia. Far from the expectations of local officials. For national level, the estimate turnout among eligible voters is reaching 62.6%, although the number could go up since it doesn’t include all absentee ballots.