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Voter Turnout Uncertain for 2006 Election

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A handful of scandals in Washington during the past year as well as low approval ratings for Congress in general lead one to speculate whether voters will be turned off by politics and stay home in November, or motivated to—as some pundits claim—'throw all the bums out.'

Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest usually lead the country in turning out the vote in general elections. However, turnout in non-presidential election years is noticeably depressed even in this politically engaged part of the country.

Overall, voter turnout in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin has averaged 68% in presidential elections since 1960, compared to just 52% in off years. Minnesota leads the pack in presidential elections during this span (72%) with South Dakota ahead in off years (58%).

Minnesota has turned out the vote quite well in off years during recent elections—inspired in part by competitive races, tragic events (Senator Paul Wellstone's death) and notable third party campaigns (Jesse Ventura, Tim Penny) that have generated unusual interest and media coverage. In 2002 63% of voting age adults in the Gopher state took the time to vote, preceded by 60% in 1998. The same cannot be said for its neighbors Iowa (47%, 45%) or Wisconsin (45%, 46%).

2006 is an off year election, and no one yet knows if turnout will be dismal, approaching record highs, or somewhere in between. It is even more difficult for political junkies to speculate on turnout, as our interest in politics is horribly skewed compared to the average voter. Smart Politics will therefore wait until November 8th to make our predictions.

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Remains of the Data

Which States Own the Best Track Record in Backing Eventual GOP Presidential Nominees?

Nine states (each with primaries) have an unblemished record in voting for the eventual Republican nominee since 1976 - and not all host contests on the back end of the calendar.

Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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