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Voter Turnout Up Slightly This Midterm

Competitive races in many states in this year's midterm congressional election apparently attracted more voters to the polls than the last midterm election in 1998, according to a survey on turnout.

Curtis Gans, director of the independent Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, estimated Tuesday's turnout at 78.5 million, more than 39 percent of voting-age citizens.

In the 1998 elections, the figure was 37.6 percent — the lowest midterm turnout since 1942.

Twenty-eight states had higher turnouts this year and 22 states and the District of Columbia had lower turnouts, according to the survey.

"A lot of it was the intensity of competition,'' Gans said Wednesday. "The greatest increases were in the states with the most intense competition.''

Democrats had hoped to build on their success in getting out the vote in the last election, while the GOP tried to emulate the success of Democrats and organized labor.

Republican House candidates got more votes than Democrats, the survey found.

"This has happened in the last three midterms,'' Gans said. "The Democratic Party has been losing allegiance on a steady basis.''

Gans said Florida's turnout was at least 6 percentage points higher than in 1998 because of Democrat Bill McBride's challenge to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, for whom the governor's brother, President Bush, campaigned extensively.

Among the highest turnouts, according to preliminary figures, were Minnesota, with 61.4 percent; South Dakota, 61.3 percent; and New Hampshire, 48.7 percent. All three had tight Senate races.

Turnout rose 6 percentage points in Missouri because of another close contest for the Senate and 5 percentage points in Massachusetts because of a hard-fought governor's race, Gans said.

More voters also went to the polls in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Delaware, Gans said, but that may be because the last midterm election had no major issues or contests.