Voter Turnout Expected to Increase

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Tuesday’s Congressional midterm elections, with 37 Senate seats and all 435 House seats up for grabs, will take place in front of a complex political backdrop, with the rise of the ultra-conservative Tea Party purportedly giving voice to the voiceless and rallying frustrated Americans across the country to support conservative candidates.

But the most politically charged races this year will occur where participation was decidedly low in the last Congressional midterm elections in 2006. Here we look at a few of the hottest battles:

Nevada

All eyes are on the battle between democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Tea Party-backed Republican Sharron Angle. In a state that ranked last in voter registration in 2006 (49.2% of population over 18) and only sixth from the bottom in terms of actual turnout (37.3% of those registered), it might be hard to get reluctant voters to the polls to change the status quo.

Florida

In Florida, so worried are democrats about the Senate seat up for grabs that Bill Clinton himself came down to ask Democrat Kendrick Meek to pull out of the race between Governor Charlie Crist (an Independent) and Tea-Party candidate Marco Rubio. They worry about the vote getting split, and in a state with low registration (56.4%, 7th lowest) and low turnout (38.4%, or 8th lowest) in 2006, there may be few votes to split indeed.

Delaware

While Tea Party-backed Republican Christine O’Donnell has been all over the news in her fight for a Senate seat against Democrat Chris Coons, the numbers suggest little contest. Coons is ahead in polls, and with the state’s low registration (63%) and turnout (42.6%) in 2006, it will be hard for O’Donnell to bring enough people to the polls to really make a difference.

Alaska

In Alaska’s Senate race, Tea Party-backed Joe Miller, who beat GOP favorite Lisa Murkowski in the primaries, will face her (as a write-in candidate) and Democrat Scott McAdams on Tuesday, in a highly negative campaign that has gotten a ton of press. The state saw above-average registration (52.9%) and turnout (70.9%, 10th highest) in 2006, which may explain all the negative campaigning; with fewer people to attract to the polls, it’s essential to change the minds of those who were planning to vote already.

In a time when the Great Recession has touched the lives of pretty much every American, chances are good that people everywhere will strive to make their voices heard. Whatever party comes out on top, more participation at least means a government more representative of the changing American population, so Democracy should be the real winner.

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