A Record-Breaking Year Continues with Historic Early Voting Numbers

Image courtesy of NPR

By Eva Lynch

The year 2020 has been dubbed unfamiliar and unprecedented, so it’s fitting that early voting numbers are equally as historic, in what experts are calling the “early surge,” with less than a week until the election. 

Almost 70 million Americans have already mailed in their ballots or voted early in-person, constituting more than half the total number of voters in 2016. Surveys show that Democrats are more likely to vote by mail while  Republicans are more likely to vote in-person, a trend which reflects the influence of Trump’s consistent debasement of mail-in voting as an inherently fraudulent practice. Apart from influence of all kinds from both candidates, analysts credit this year’s surge to nationwide worries about delays within the postal service. 

Several battleground states have been notified of cause for worry regarding postal delays, amplifying the existing competition in states like North Carolina, Texas, and Pennsylvania. However, the possibility of postal delays has not deterred voters in these key swing states, many of which have recorded historic early voting numbers. 87% of Texas’ 2016 vote has been counted, as has almost 70% of Florida’s, 72% of North Carolina’s, and 71% of Georgia’s, according to the latest polls

In addition to the postal service’s operation, the decisions of several battleground states may be decisive in the general election. Some states that analysts have identified as “perennial” swing states are not in season for close competition this year: voters in Wisconsin have been polling steadily bluer since May, as have Nevada, and New Hampshire. Lately, these states with large disparities have been joined by Minnesota and Pennsylvania, in which Biden boasts nine and five points over Trump, respectively. Recent polls have shown Biden hovering around a three-point lead in Arizona and between a one- and two-point lead in Florida, two normally contentious states as well.

Biden has been steadily on top in North Carolina, according to the polls, but the lead has never been large. A close race is characteristic of North Carolina voting, though the state has only voted for a Democratic nominee once in the last 10 presidential elections. This cycle, almost half of North Carolina’s registered voters have cast a ballot, most of which have been in-person rather than by mail and, almost 80% more than had at this time during the last election. 

It is the case for all of the battleground states that so many different polls constantly reporting so many different numbers makes it hard to nail down how each states’ divided electorates is actually leaning; it is especially so for Georgia. Some polls show the two candidates virtually tied, and others show Biden pulling away with a lead of as many as five points. Biden recently campaigned in Georgia, which Democrats have not swayed since 1992. 

Michigan, among those states which Trump boasted as one of his most remarkable captures of 2016, is currently home to an eight-point lead for Biden. Michigan’s electorate disagreed by .3% in 2016, and the state’s turnaround and severity thereof has analysts searching for state Democrats’ motivation. A state judge recently blocked state legislators’ attempt to ban openly-carried firearms at polling stations, and, at a recent rally, Trump continued his attack on the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who has recently suffered an alleged kidnapping plot against her. 

Additionally, all three of these states experienced protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and some analysts predict these recent events and the movement they rekindled may be responsible for the tight polls.

Pennsylvania is among the battleground states experiencing possibly decisive postal delays, which, combined with failed attempts at legislative resolution, have intensified the struggle between the two candidates. Polls show Biden maintaining a steady lead since early summer, though discussion in the Supreme Court regarding a recent state decision—to accept ballots received up to three days after the election and without a legible postmark—could stymie participation from state Democrats. 

Though it is not commonly considered a battleground state, a recently purple Texas electorate has experts wondering about the state’s decision this year. Texas was among the states told by election and postal officials to definitively expect postal delays with mail-in ballots, which, similar to other battleground states experiencing the same issue, could stunt Democrat voter turnout and lessen the possibility of flipping a state which Democrats have not won since 1976. However, experts are holding onto the possibility of a blue vote from the Lone Star State based on early voting statistics: youth voter turnout in Texas is currently the highest in the country, at nearly 600% of last year’s participation, about 1.8 million Texans registered to vote for the first time, and while Trump has sustained a lead, he has not surged more than three percentage points ahead of Biden since May. 

Youth voters are essential to the current record-breaking voting statistics and to the outcome of the general election, not only in Texas but in other battleground states, too. Young voters, defined as those aged 18-29, have cast six million early votes thus far nationwide, three times what they did in 2016, and battleground states like Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina have all seen at least twice as many young voters cast early ballots as four years ago. Experts suspect these added registrations and drove-like votes from youth are beneficial for Biden, as they are most likely members of the young demographics that usually skew Democratic. However, the volume of youth voting this early could be chalked up to eagerness to vote for the first time and in such a contentious election, and is not representative of the outcome of the election. 

Overall, Biden has maintained a steady lead over Trump nationwide since the primaries, though the shock of 2016 is burned in every American’s mind and will serve as a perpetual reminder that we truly never know what is going to happen, no matter how conclusive the polls may seem.

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