While county clerks and precint-watchers across the country were bragging about the heavy voter turnout on election day, the actual figures are shaping up less optimistically.
At the League of Women Voters office in Washington, the indications on the day after the election still pointed to a higher turnout than usual -- that the decline in the past four national elections had not continued in 1980. Rep. Morris Udall's Arizona district, for example, ran out of ballots Tuesday and continued its voting on Wednesday.
But Curtis Gans, one of the Closest turnout-watchers this year and director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, calculates otherwise.
Between 52 and 52.5 percent of the electorate voted, Mr. Gans figures -- down about 2 percent from 1976. But in the South, he notes, voter interest was decidedly higher: "A seat-of- the pants judgment is that Reagan and Carter, for all their flaws, appealed to the South." Gans pegs this to the President's Southern roots, and Reagan's appeal to traditional Southern values.
Of Reagan's massive victory in a South considered a Democratic stronghold, Gans sees as well "the beginning of two-party competition in the South."