U.S. Voter Turnout Looking Lower than 2008; Nevada Numbers Increase

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WASHINGTON - A significant drop in voter turnout in Tuesday's election didn't keep President Barack Obama from winning a second term.

Early figures from states where more than 90 percent of the vote had been counted suggest fewer people voted this year than four years ago, when voters set turnout records as they elected Obama.

In most states, the numbers are shaping up to be even lower than in 2004, said Curtis Gans, director of American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate. Still, the full picture may not be known for weeks because much of the counting takes place after Election Day.

In Vermont, turnout for the presidential race dropped more than 14 percent from 2008.

Mississippi and South Carolina saw declines that were almost as large.

The drop was about 10 percent in Maryland, where voters approved a ballot measure allowing gay marriage.

Nevada was one of the exceptions to the trend, with the number of voters statewide and in Clark County shattering previous records.

For the first time, more than 1 million Nevada voters cast ballots in an election, easily surpassing the record of 970,019 set in 2008. In Clark County, more than 687,000 cast ballots, breaking the previous record of nearly 653,000 four years ago.

Voter rates were also high. More than 80 percent of registered voters in Clark County went to the polls in this election. That was the highest rate since 1984, when more than 82 percent voted.

Statewide, more than 80 percent of registered voters turned out, the highest rate since 1992.

In other states, a host of factors could have contributed to waning voter enthusiasm, Gans said. The nastiness of the 2012 race left many voters feeling turned off.

With Democrats weary from a difficult four years and Republicans splintered by a divisive primary, members of neither party were particularly enthused about their candidate.

Stricter voting restrictions adopted by many states also may have kept some voters away from the polls.

Another factor was Superstorm Sandy, which devastated areas of the East Coast one week before the election, wiping out power for millions and disrupting usual voting routines. In Hoboken, N.J., Anthony Morrone said he had never missed a vote until this year.

"No time, no time to vote, too much to do," said Morrone, 76, as he surveyed a pile of junked refrigerators, a car destroyed by flooding and a curbside mountain of waterlogged debris.

About 13 percent fewer voters in New Jersey cast ballots for president than in 2008, although the gap could tighten in the coming days.

New Jersey elections officials have given displaced residents in some areas until Friday to cast special email ballots.

In other parts of the country, low turnout belied the ardent efforts by some voters to make their voices heard.

Some voters in South Carolina's Richland County waited more than four hours to cast their ballots, and leaders from both parties blamed the delays on broken voting machines.

Officials in Virginia and New Hampshire reported many voters were still waiting to vote when polls closed in the evening.

In battleground states such as Ohio and Florida, lines snaked back and forth as voters waited to cast their ballots.

"I've been waiting for four years to cast this vote," said Robert Dan Perry, 64, who voted for Romney in Zebulon, N.C.

Both Obama and Republican Mitt Romney made voter turnout a priority in the waning days of their intensely close race.

One bright spot in this year's voting was the number of early and mail-in ballots cast.

Before polls opened on Election Day, more than 32 million people had cast their ballots, either by mail or in person, in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

In several states, including Iowa, Maryland and Montana, early voting appeared to far exceed totals from 2008.