Stateline Story

Voting Surged in 2004, Census Says

  • May 26, 2005
  • By Kathleen Murphy

Nationally, voter turnout in the United States increased to 64 percent of all adult citizens in 2004, up from 60 percent in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

More white and black Americans went to the polls in 2004 than four years earlier when the struggle between Republican George Bush and Democrat Al Gore also turned out voters in record numbers and produced an epic split in which Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the electoral.

Turnout rates for white citizens were 5 percent higher than in 2000, and turnout among blacks was up 3 percent. Voting rates for Asian and Hispanic citizens did not change, according to Census data about levels of voting and registration in the November election.

Among citizens registered to vote, 89 percent said they went to the polls, up from 86 percent in 2000, Census said. Turnout topped rates from four years ago in every state except Alaska, Indiana and Louisiana. Washington, D.C. also had lower turnout than in 2000.

Minnesota had the highest citizen-voting rate at 79 percent. Other states with high voter turnout included Wisconsin, 77 percent; Oregon, 74 percent; Maine, 73 percent; North Dakota and New Hampshire, 72 percent.

Lowest voter turnout was in Hawaii, 51 percent; Tennessee, 55 percent; Georgia, Texas and West Virginia, 57 percent.

Meanwhile, North Dakota had the highest percentage of citizens over 18 years old registered to vote, 89 percent. Tennessee had the lowest, 64 percent.

Women were more likely to vote than men, Census reported. People who used their vote were more likely to be older, more educated and white.

Political scientists will use the 2004 turnout rates to analyze what drives higher participation, looking at such factors as same-day registration, early voting and mail-in balloting. They also will look for connections between turnout and the amount of money spent on political races.

They will scrutinize the data to see whether, as many social conservatives and evangelical church leaders asserted, ballot initiatives on gay marriage pulled more people to the polls. Of seven non-battleground states with a same-sex marriage question on the ballot (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah), turnout ranged from nearly 1 percent to 8 percent higher than in 2000, Census data showed.

Six states -- Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- allow people to register to vote on Election Day and had 2004 voter turnout rates higher than the national average, Census data showed.