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'Crazy' Voting Numbers May Yield a US First

Majority might cast ballots before Election Day for the first time
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 16, 2020 3:35 PM CDT
Updated Oct 18, 2020 9:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – Nearly 21 million Americans have already cast ballots in the 2020 election, a record-shattering avalanche of early votes amid the pandemic. The 20.8 million ballots submitted as of Friday afternoon represent 15% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, the AP reports, even as eight states are not yet reporting their totals, and voters still have more than two weeks to cast ballots. The rush to vote is leading election analysts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast and that turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908. At this rate, per the Washington Post, more Americans might cast their votes before Election Day than on Election Day for the first time in the nation's history. "I don't know what things are going to look like on Election Day," an Atlanta voter said Thursday, "and I didn’t want to take any chances."

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"It's crazy," said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who has long tracked voting for his site ElectProject.org. His analysis shows roughly 10 times as many people have voted compared with this point in 2016. Turnout has been lopsided, with Democrats outvoting Republicans 2-1 in the 42 states included in the AP count. But both parties anticipate a swell of Republican votes on Election Day that could, in a matter of hours, dramatically shift the dynamic. The voting has occurred without any of the violent skirmishes at polling places that some activists and law enforcement officials feared. It has featured snags and errors—100,000 faulty mail ballots sent out in New York, 50,000 in Columbus, Ohio, and a vendor supplying that state and Pennsylvania blaming delays in sending ballots on overwhelming demand. There also have been extraordinary lines but few signs of mass disruption.

(Read more Election 2020 stories.)

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