WASHINGTON (PAI) — Thanks to massive voter registration drives, issues campaigns, get-out-the-vote efforts and record opportunities for voting early, there should be a large jump in voter turnout for this year’s election, several top analysts say.

And in a telephone press conference, the analysts — Rutgers political science professor Susan Carroll, National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy, Marie Wilson of the White House Project, and Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal — predicted the higher turnout will also be highly female.

Combining new registrants and early voting, they expect more than 8 million more women than men will vote this year. The high turnout, spurred by efforts by unions, civil rights groups, women’s groups and African American and Hispanic organizations, may produce results that surprise pollsters, the analysts said. That’s because the polls, which currently show a virtually tied race between Democrat John Kerry and Republican George W. Bush, underestimate turnout by young voters and minority voters, they said.

Smeal said young voters are underestimated because pollsters call past voters on regular phones, while younger voters predominantly use cell phones. Gandy said college student voters are using the early-voting option, and standing up to challenges to their right to vote.

“On one campus in Iowa,” where NOW and other groups are active in get-out-the-vote efforts, “half the school voted on the first day” of early voting in October, Gandy said.

The analysts said Kerry’s higher concentration on women’s issues will also help raise turnout. “The Kerry campaign has stepped up its outreach to women in the last month,” Gandy said. The other analysts cited Kerry’s answers on health care, the minimum wage and choice during the third debate as contributing to his support among women voters.

“One major reason for a big increase is what happened in 2000 and that caused people to see how every vote counts,” Smeal said. “It also adds to the determination of women’s groups to get every vote out.”