Hillary Clinton arrives in St. Louis hours before her second Presidential debate with Republican Nominee for President of the United States Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday October 9, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

It seems like a brash prediction.

"We've been very confident since the time we saw the very first numbers on day one that we would see the largest turnout in American history," Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook said on Thursday. "We will see more ballots cast in this election than any presidential election than ever before."

Wow! More ballots cast than at any point in history! Could he possibly be right?

Well, yeah. Once you think about it, it becomes pretty obvious how a new record could be in the cards.

This is the number of votes cast every year since 1856, according to U.S. Election Atlas.


It keeps going up. Only six times since 1856 has turnout gone down election-over-election. Why? Why could more votes have been cast in 2012 than, say, 1912? It's not like America got any bigger, right?

Oh.


Right. In 1912, there were about 96 million Americans. A century later, there were three times as many.

The most votes cast were cast in 2008, when over 131 million cast a ballot. That turnout fell a bit in 2012. But since 2012, the country has added another 24 million people, according to Census Bureau data aggregated by WolframAlpha. So in 2008, about 43 percent of the total population cast a ballot. To top that total in 2016, only 40 percent need to do so. That's not a given, but it's easier than it may seem. We passed that mark in 2004, 2008 and 2012.


Given how unpopular both Clinton and Donald Trump are, it's safe to wonder if people will be inspired to go to the polls. (Trump's new campaign strategy seems pretty focused on driving those numbers down, given that he hasn't figured out how to move his numbers upward and keep them there.) What we've seen, though, is that a lot of people plan on voting because they oppose the other candidate. It's safe to say that a number of Republicans will turn out to try and keep Clinton from winning, and a lot of Democrats will do the same to stymie Trump.

The population trend alone suggests that it may not make that much difference. Where 2016 will not set any turnout elections is in the percentage of the qualified population that turns out to vote. That peak came in 1960, and trended down until the year 2000. (Well, the actual peaks were in the 1800s, but not everyone got to vote, of course.) In 2008, the current record-holder for total votes, that figure spiked -- but it still wasn't that close. 2016 likely won't challenge it.

So: We'll probably set a new turnout record. But the credit goes mostly to procreation and immigration, not voter enthusiasm. At least, voter enthusiasm for voting.