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Election Turnout in 2004 Was Highest Since 1968

By Brian Faler
Saturday, January 15, 2005; Page A05

The final numbers are in -- and turnout in the 2004 presidential election, it seems, was a bit more impressive than previously believed.

The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate reported yesterday that more than 122 million people voted in the November election, a number that translates into the highest turnout -- 60.7 percent -- since 1968.

President Bush officially won 62,028,719 votes, which was 50.8 percent of the ballots cast and 11.5 million more than he won in 2000. Sen John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) took 48.3 percent, or 59,028,550 votes. That was about 8 million more than Al Gore won in 2000. Independent Ralph Nader won 440,513 votes, less than 0.4 percent of the total. In 2000, he won more than 2.8 million votes.

Turnout was 6.4 percent higher than in 2000, the largest uptick in voter participation since the 1952 election. The numbers are a bit higher than the research group's initial estimates, which were based on unofficial tallies and released days after the election.

The organization also found that Kerry ran behind his party's statewide candidates -- governors and senators -- who were up for election in 30 of 37 states. Bush fared much better, winning fewer votes than Republican candidates in just 16 of 37 states.

The report noted that although turnout reached new heights, more than 78 million Americans who were eligible to vote stayed home on Election Day. The group estimated that Bush won just 30.8 percent of the total eligible voters.

'527' Backers to Fight On

The campaign goes on for participants in the "527s" of 2004 -- those groups that exploited a campaign finance loophole to pump tens of millions of dollars into the election campaign. Steve Moore, who formerly ran the conservative Club for Growth, is starting a new group called the Free Enterprise Fund that will try to influence policy.

Similarly, three wealthy Democratic donors, hedge fund billionaire George Soros, insurance executive Peter Lewis, and Herb and Marion Sandler, a banking family, are in talks to start a liberal group that will push policy in a Democratic direction. The Democratic donors have indicated they may be willing to spend even more than the $60 million they spent on the 2004 election. A spokesman, David Dreyer, said the liberal donors are pondering "how their policy goals are challenged by organizations funded by large donations from the right. They are continuing to talk about what to do about that."

Michelman Won't Seek DNC Post

Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, has decided not to enter the race to lead the Democratic National Committee and instead will lead, as she put it, an "effort to reassert the party's leadership on women's fundamental rights."

Staff writer Dana Milbank contributed to this report.

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