Voter turnout increases from last midterm in 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) - Spurred by anger over the recession and closely contested races in several large states, Americans voted in higher numbers than in midterm elections four years ago.

With more than 95 percent of precincts reporting, election data indicate that turnout Tuesday was up in at least nine states, including significant increases in Florida, Minnesota and Texas. Turnout appeared to be down slightly in several other states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Overall, turnout in the midterm elections was projected at 42 percent of registered voters, about 1.2 percentage points higher than in 2006.

The total popular vote nationwide was expected to reach about 90 million people, 6.2 million more than voted in 2006.

Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, said competitive races featuring tea party-backed candidates in Florida, Texas and Delaware were drawing high voter turnout, with mixed results.

Tea party favorite Marco Rubio won a Senate seat in Florida while Christine O'Donnell was defeated in Delaware.

Turnout in Delaware was up 5 percentage points to about 48 percent, in large part because of O'Donnell's star power, said Michael McDonald, an election turnout expert at George Mason University.

Even though she lost handily, she brought out voters both for and against her, in much the way that Sarah Palin energized the electorate in 2008, McDonald said.

"In Delaware, maybe a new Fox commentator has been born," he said.

Turnout was less robust in neighboring Pennsylvania, where only 41 percent of voters cast ballots, down 3 points from 2006. McDonald attributed the downturn to a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats and noted that Republicans won closely contested races for Senate and governor.

In Florida, GOP enthusiasm drove turnout up about 3 percentage points to an estimated 43.3 percent. Rubio won a three-way Senate race while Republican Rick Scott narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink for governor.

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