ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It's well known that the turnout in midterm elections is a lot lower than in presidential years. In the past two presidential elections, around 130 million Americans cast votes. In the midterms four years ago, 91 million voters took part. That number represented 42 percent of the American population of voting age. This year - well, the numbers aren't official yet, and political scientist Michael McDonald of the University of Florida who tracks such things told me today that the total is likely to rise a little as late arriving mail-in ballots and other missing votes are counted.
But as of today, according to numbers from the Associated Press, a bit over 83 million people voted. As a share of the voting-eligible population, that is 36.6 percent. It was a lot higher than that in Colorado and New Hampshire where there were very hard-fought Senate races.
But if after all the votes are counted, if the national turnout rate doesn't reach 38.1 percent, it would be the lowest turnout since the midterm elections of 1942. And as Michael McDonald points out, that was in the middle of the Second World War.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.