Will voters show up?
Voter turnout will be high.
Voter turnout will be low.
Theories on how many voters will fill out ballots in the upcoming midterm elections, and why they might or might not do so, are as varied as the races and propositions on the ticket.
As usual, the so-called youth vote is expected to be close to non-existent.
Republicans might be turned off from the recent scandal involving former Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley, who exchanged sexually explicit electronic communication with a teenage male page.
Yet party members might go to the polls to ensure Republicans keep their majority in both houses of Congress. Democrats are hoping for a seismic shift by voters fed up with Republicans that will give them a majority.
Then there’s the Iraq war, and the varying opinions of strategy on how to handle the conflict.
“I think this is one of the most interesting elections in recent memory because I can make an argument that you can have this huge Democratic swing or the Democrats could fall well short from what they’re hoping for and both scenarios are equally valid,” said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Although voter interest is high, Herzik said it doesn’t necessarily signify high voter turnout.
“Voter interest is higher than what we usually see for a midterm (election) but until Election Day we don’t know if that is going to translate to higher turnout,” Herzik said.
As an example, Herzik cited the October 2003 special election in recalling then Gov. Gray Davis.
Statewide voter turnout was only 43.1 percent of eligible voters as Arnold Schwarzenegger was ushered into office.
“That (election) just dominated the news. It was the only election going but turnout was no better than we normally see,” Herzik said.
This year, both Nevada and California have gubernatorial races, although the one in California is not as close as that of its neighbor.
The result might depress voter turnout in California, according to Kimberly Nalder, a professor at Sacramento State University’s School of Government.
Yet “cross forces” are at work as there are enough reasons for voters to be angry, which will bring Democrats, moderate Republicans and Independents to the polls, Nalder said.
“(Republicans) don’t have much to be angry about to get them out to vote,” Nalder said. “They have disappointment, and disappointment generally doesn’t motivate voters. The side more angry at this point are generally the Democrats.”
The nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations revealed Americans have more concern on international matters, particularly the war in Iraq and immigration, than traditional midterm election issues such as jobs and education.
The study cited Norman Ornstein, an expert in U.S. politics and an American Enterprise Institute scholar, who said the election will either reveal a general sense of distemper or unhappiness about what direction the country is going in or “that the Democrats are really bad and weak (and) this larger sense that you just can’t trust these guys in power.”
Out of 34 Senate seats up for election, Democrats must win six seats for control while they must win 15 seats of all the 435 seats up for election to have a majority in the House of Representatives.
Herzik said for either party to stir up voters, they should focus less on the “air war,” which he described as being fought over media airwaves, and more on the “ground war” of knocking on doors and talking to people.
That might not be needed in Douglas County, Nevada, which had a remarkable 92 percent voter turnout for the 2004 presidential election, according to Barbara Reed, the county’s clerk-treasurer.
It was the highest in the state. For next month’s election, Reed anticipates turnout in the 80 to 85 percent range of registered voters.
“The voters in Douglas County are very active,” Reed said.
Tuesday is the last day in Douglas County to register to vote in the midterm election.
In El Dorado County, Registrar of Voters William Schultz expects a 70 percent voter turnout. South Lake Tahoe voters will go to the polls to select three city councilmembers out of six candidates, which is only part of a lengthy state ballot, Schultz said.
“Every vote is going to count,” Schultz said.