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Early morning voters cast ballots in Presidential Election

Early morning voters wait to cast their votes on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 at the V.F.W. Post 3500 in Richmond Heights. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Voters complained of long lines throughout the region on Tuesday, but turnout in most counties was down considerably from eight years ago when Barack Obama was seeking his first term as president.

And in St. Louis city and county, the numbers also were below 2012 figures. St. Charles County saw a slight increase from four years ago. Jefferson County, however, saw turnout at 2008 levels, with more than 73 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

"Early on, we thought we would be exactly where we were in 2012," said Eric Fey, Democratic elections director for St. Louis County. But the mail-in absentee ballots really tapered off as Election Day drew near, he said. Voter turnout was 73.3 percent this year compared to 76.2 percent in 2012 and 78.6 percent in 2008. 

Fey predicts that once a breakdown of votes by precinct is completed, the parts of the county with higher numbers of minority voters will show the greatest drops in turnout compared to 2012 and 2008.

In St. Louis city, where nearly half the population is African-American, voter turnout was 67.6 percent, compared to 74 percent in 2012 and 83 percent in 2008.

Polls across the country show that African-Americans did not come to the polls in as large of numbers this year, compared to the two times Obama was on the ballot. It was one demographic Hillary Clinton was banking on in her bid to win the White House.

Gary Stoff, Republican elections director in St. Louis city, said that while this year's presidential race was billed as historic, with Clinton vying to become the first woman president, there did not seem to be as much enthusiasm as eight years ago, when Obama was running to become the first African-American to hold the top job.

In St. Charles County, voter turnout was up slightly, at 73.7 percent, compared to 72.8 percent in 2012. Four years earlier, turnout was nearly 78 percent. Election authority director Rich Chrismer correctly predicted Tuesday night's numbers would exceed those of 2012.

Jefferson County Clerk Wes Wagner said he was unsure why Tuesday's turnout was on par with 2008, and well above the 65 percent from four years ago. He had predicted a 68 percent turnout this year, and dismissed early any talk of record voting numbers, which was in 1992 for Wagner's county. That's when Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot spurred an 82 percent voter turnout.

"Deer hunting season is next week and I'm looking forward to sitting in the woods by myself and thinking about how things went like they did," Wagner said of Tuesday night's outcome.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jason Kander said Wednesday morning that his office is compiling a statewide voter turnout report and will provide the information once it is complete. It was unclear when that will be.

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Doug Moore is a former reporter for the P-D. Currently, policy director for St. Louis County Council.