Nearly 21 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 elections, a record avalanche of early votes.
The 20.8 million votes cast until Friday afternoon (16) already represent 15% of all votes in the 2016 presidential election, although eight states have yet to release their totals and voters still have more than two weeks to vote.
The rush of Americans to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes can be beaten and participation rates can be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.
“It’s crazy,” Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida who has long followed the vote for his website ElectProject.org, told the Associated Press. McDonald’s analysis shows that about 10 times more people have voted compared to this point in 2016.
“We can be sure that this is going to be a huge participation election,” said McDonald.
Voters wait in line to vote in Doral, Florida, on Wednesday (14) – Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP
So far, attendance has been uneven, with Democrats beating Republicans 2 to 1 in the 42 states included in the Associated Press count. Republicans have been bracing for that early Democratic lead for months, as they watch President Donald Trump criticize the ballots in the mail and raise unfounded concerns about fraud.
The vote, and now the early vote, suggests that rhetoric has diverted its party’s foundations from a method they traditionally dominated.
This gives Democrats a tactical advantage in the final stretch of the campaign. In many states where the battle is critical, Democrats have “accumulated” a portion of their voters and can allocate their time and money to infrequent voters, more difficult to win.
But that does not necessarily mean that Democrats will lead in votes the moment ballots are counted. Both parties anticipate a wave of Republican votes on election day that can, in a matter of hours, dramatically change the dynamics.
Presidential election material is shown online in Los Angeles, California – Photo: Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images / AFP
“The numbers of Republicans are going to increase,” said John Couvillon, a Republican Party pollster who follows the early vote. “The question is at what speed and when?”
Couvillon said that Democrats cannot rest on their leadership, but Republicans themselves are making a big bet. Several factors, from the increase in coronavirus infections to the weather, can affect personal participation on election day. “If you are putting all your faith on a voting day, it is a very high risk”, says the researcher.
That is why, despite Trump’s rhetoric, his campaign and party are encouraging their own voters to vote by mail or in advance and in person.
The campaign, which has been sending volunteers and staff to the field for months despite the pandemic, announces an increase in voter registration in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania – a sharp reversal from the usual pattern as the presidential election approaches.
But she has had limited success in selling the idea of in-person voting. In decisive states, Republicans remain far less interested in voting by mail.
Voters wait in line to vote for Black Mountain, North Carolina, on Thursday (15) – Photo: Brian Blanco / Getty Images / AFP
In Pennsylvania, more than three quarters of the more than 437,000 ballots sent by mail so far have been from Democrats. In Florida, half of all ballots sent by mail so far have been from Democrats and less than a third from Republicans.
Even in Colorado, a state where all voters receive a ballot and Republicans usually dominate the first week of voting, only 19% of the ballots returned are Republicans.
“All of this is encouraging, but three weeks is a lifetime,” said Democratic data strategist Tom Bonier of the poll numbers.
Francina Fountain registered to vote in Orlando, Florida, in a September 22 photo – Photo: Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel via AP
The overwhelming number of votes took place without any of the violent conflicts at polling stations that some activists and police feared.
Serious errors occurred – 100,000 defective mail notes sent in New York, 50,000 in Columbus, Ohio, and a supplier that supplies that state and Pennsylvania, blaming the delay in sending the notes due to overwhelming demand. But there is little evidence of the massive strike that some feared when polling stations had to change abruptly to deal with the influx of early voting.
But there have been extraordinary queues and hourly waiting times in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina since those states opened the face-to-face vote. The delays were largely the result of insufficient resources to deal with the increase, which defenders say is a form of repression against voters.
Republicans argue that these signs of enthusiasm are meaningless – the first Democratic voters are people who would have voted anyway, they say. But an AP analysis of early voting shows that 8% of initial voters had never voted before and 13.8% voted in half or less of the previous elections for which they were eligible.
The data also shows that voters are adopting postal voting, which health officials say is the safest way to prevent coronavirus infection during the vote. Of the first voters, 82% voted by mail and 18% in person.
Black voters vote for 10% of ballots, almost the same as their participation in the national electorate, according to data analysis by AP from L2, a political data company. This is a sign that these voters, who are less likely to vote by mail than whites and Latinos, have accepted the method.
So far, ballots in the mail have turned to older voters, with half coming from voters over 64. Traditionally, younger voters mail their ballots closer to election day or vote in person.
American President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate on September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio – Photo: Patrick Semansky / AP
The ballots already returned in several states exceed the total of previous elections. In Wisconsin, more than five times more postal votes were sent compared to the entire number in 2016. North Carolina has seen almost three times the number so far.
In-person early voting began this week in several major states and also broke records, particularly in populous metropolitan areas with a Democratic bias. In Texas, Harris County, Houston, saw a record 125,000 votes. In Georgia, hour-long lines stretched from electoral offices across many of the state’s urban areas.
Tunde Ezekiel, a 39-year-old Democratic lawyer who voted early in Atlanta on Thursday, said he wanted to make sure he had a chance to remove Trump from office: “I don’t know how things are going to look on Election Day. … and I didn’t want to take any risks ”.
Obvious enthusiasm among Democrats cheered up party members, but they note that it is difficult to say in which direction attendance will eventually fall. Republicans may be equally motivated, but reserving themselves for election day.
“High participation can benefit both sides,” said Bonier.
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