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Midterm turnout could shatter records

From NBC's Carrie Dann and Domenico Montanaro
There could be a new record for turnout in a midterm election set Tuesday night.

Dr. Michael McDonald, who tracks election turnout at George Mason University, projects that a record-breaking 90 million people will cast ballots for 2010 candidates, the largest number of voters to date in a midterm election.

The current midterm record was set in 2006, when 86 million voters went to the polls.

McDonald, who bases his projections on early voting data as well as trends in individual states, calculates that turnout will be about 41.3 percent of the eligible voting population.

That's comparable to the population that turned out in 1994 (41.1 percent of the eligible population) and the highest share since at least 1982.

Those numbers still pale in comparson to turnout in a typical presidential election. Average turnout in presidential years is 55 percent, compared to about 40 percent for off-year contests.

About 30 percent fewer people turn out to vote in midterms than preidential elections. In 2008, the all-time turnout record was set, when 133 million people showed up to vote.

McDonald projects turnout of more than 50 percent in 12 states -- including Alaska, Wisconsin, Colorado -- where some of the closest statewide races in the country are taking place.