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Early voting surged. Election Day voting plummeted. The net result: A smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2016 than in either of the previous two presidential elections.
The raw number of votes rose: About 1.4 million more Americans voted in this year’s election than in 2012, a total which itself was down from 2008. But the electorate was growing in the meantime: About 57 percent of eligible voters cast ballots this year, down from 58.6 percent in 2012 and 61.6 percent in 2008, which was the highest mark in 40 years. Turnout still remained well above levels for most presidential election years from 1972 to 2000.
We still don't really know how many people voted though:
These numbers are preliminary estimates subject to change as our decentralized electoral system continues counting votes. There is no official national turnout figure, and the best available estimates — from Michael McDonald, associate professor at the University of Florida, who gathers data at the U.S. Elections Project; and from FiveThirtyEight contributor David Wasserman, who is gathering national vote counts — suggest that more than 4 million votes remain uncounted, more than half of them in California.3Wasserman is collecting presidential votes that have been counted so far; McDonald is using available data to estimate the total number of people who voted. As a result, McDonald’s count is higher. Though a small proportion of the gap between their counts is also due to McDonald counting ballots without a vote for president. McDonald might also be understating the number of California votes still uncounted. He didn’t respond to a request for comment. As a result, figures in this story may not line up with vote-count data published by media organizations. Many news organizations after the election claimed that 46.9 percent of people didn’t vote. But that figure, which may have originated from this tweet, was based on dividing vote totals as of Wednesday morning by all eligible voters.