Who’s going to vote today? The answer could decide (among other things) whether Rhode Island’s 1st District sends Congressman Cicilline or Congressman Doherty to Washington come January.
Rhode Island’s last general election was on Nov. 2, 2010, but the electorate that casts ballots today will look more like the one that went to the polls four years ago, on Nov. 4, 2008, because turnout is always higher in presidential years than in midterm/gubernatorial ones.
Here’s the data on Rhode Island turnout, as compiled by WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming:
The first question is, will Rhode Island voter turnout stay at the 67% level reached in 2008, or will it fall back to the 61% level seen in the 2004 and 2000 elections? Those six percentage points might not sound like much, but they’d be the difference between 447,513 and 491,531 votes – about 44,000 ballots, more than enough to swing a close race; Cicilline beat John Loughlin by 9,727 in 2010.
The next question: who exactly will those 447,000 to 491,000 voters be?
As Yogi Berra once remarked, it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. But we can take a look at Rhode Island’s last two presidential electorates and get a sense of who’s going to show up tomorrow.
A few things seem highly likely: more women will show up at the polls than men; about one in five voters will be young; Democrats and independents will vastly outnumber Republicans. But will the share of non-white voters jump again? Will Democrats top 40%?
The answers won’t be known until after Tuesday. (Actually, they won’t be known at all – Rhode Island’s exit poll was canceled to save money.) But here’s a look at who voted in 2004 and 2008 so you can see trends: