Austin, Mower voter numbers lower than expected

By Tim Ruzek

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

America voted in record numbers Tuesday — but not in Austin and Mower County.

In fact, local voter turnout drew fewer people and same-day voter registrations than the 2004 presidential election, officials said Wednesday.

Overall, Mower County posted about 77 percent for voter turnout Tuesday, lower than expectations for a figure higher than 80 percent, according to Mower County Auditor/Treasurer Doug Groh.


In 2004, about 83 percent of possible registered voters participated in that presidential election, Groh said.

Election Day voter registrations also dropped from 3,456 in ’04 to 3,017 for the 2008 race, he said.

For the city of Austin, about 76 percent of possible registered voters cast ballots Tuesday, lower than the 82 percent turnout for the 2004 election, said Lucy Johnson, Austin’s city clerk. The 2000 presidential race drew about a 78 percent turnout in Austin.

Johnson said she’s "very surprised" by Tuesday’s lower turnout, especially considering the predictions for a record number of voters.

Local officials, Johnson said, were expecting a turnout in the high 80 percent range, particularly with a strong number of voters to start the day. But the voting lines went down in the afternoon and never came back strong for the after-work hours, she said.

Heading into Tuesday’s election, Groh had thought the voter turnout would be higher based on the increasing number of people filing regular absentee ballots. Mower County had 1,922 absentee ballots this year, compared to 1,738 in 2004, he said.

A lower turnout for the county might be related to its older population, Groh said, such as more citizens not able to get out to vote. But he’s still surprised by the low figure, especially with the weather nice Tuesday.

"Anyone could get out to vote," he said.


Nationwide, the total voting in 2008 easily outdistanced 2004’s 122.3 million, which had been the highest grand total of voters before.

Americans stood in lines that snaked around blocks and in some places in pouring rain. Voters who queued up Tuesday and the millions who balloted early propelled 2008 to what one expert said was the highest turnout in a century.

Some experts are saying it could be the highest turnout rate since 1908 but others put it as the best in 40 years. Different experts calculate turnout rates in different ways based on whom they consider eligible voters.

Republican states, such as Wyoming and South Dakota, saw turnout drop.

Experts pointed to a weak economy and a lively campaign that promised a history-making result for the high turnout.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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