We Are on Track for the Highest Rates of Voter Turnout Since 1908
More than a third of voters have already cast their ballots
On the first day of early in-person voting in New York, I walked nearly a mile in perfect fall weather to check out the situation in my polling station at a local Boys and Girls Club. It was around 2 p.m. on October 24 — just four hours after the polls had opened — but the line remained dizzyingly long, wrapping around the block to the point where the first and last mask-wearing voters in line overlapped. New Yorkers who voted early reported hours-long waiting times in the subsequent days.
Those same lines had been forming outside polling stations all over the country — in Georgia, Texas, California, Virginia, and beyond. It was a reminder that not even a global pandemic could stop Americans motivated to vote in the 2020 election. More than 99 million people had cast their ballots as of Monday evening, according to the U.S. Elections Project, either through the mail or in person over the past weeks. That means we’re starting Election Day with more than one-third of the nation’s eligible voters having already cast a ballot.
Political scientists say we’re well on the way to record-breaking voter turnout.
“We saw a huge increase in the number of people who were voting early and by the mail. In states where it was still possible to vote in person, people were still choosing that route despite the pandemic. It’s not everybody mailing it in,” said Bernard Fraga, associate professor of political science at Emory University. “People were making the effort to show up early because they want to make sure their vote is counted, because issues on Election Day, long lines, and all these other things.”
Political scientists say we’re well on the way to record-breaking voter turnout. Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who runs the U.S. Elections Project, estimates a final turnout of 150 million people — about 65% of eligible voters. This would be a rate that we have not seen since 1908. And the number of people who voted early is over 70% of the total number who voted in the 2016 presidential election.