More than 101.2 million American voters have cast their ballots either by mail or in person even before polls opened on the US Election Day, shattering previous early voting records and putting the country on track for its highest voter turnout in over a century.
Experts predict that a record 160 million total votes will be cast in this years’ presidential election between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, the New York Times reported.
According to the US Elections Project, which compiles data on early voting and mail-in ballot returns across the country, voters have already cast around 73 per cent of the total votes counted during the previous election cycle in 2016.
The United States is predicted to surpass 150 million voters, or 67 per cent of the eligible voting population, this election, which would be the highest turnout of eligible voters in a presidential election since 1908. The last time the turnout breached 65 per cent was when Republican William Howard Taft defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan, with 65.7 per cent of the country’s voters participating.
The huge rise in early voting, both by mail and in-person, largely owes to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with millions of voters worried about the safety of traditional election day operations. Apart from the devastating impact of Covid-19 in the country, the increase in voter turnout also has to do with several other issues that have upended the lives of Americans such as the struggling economy and concerns about racial inequality.
“The early vote also is signaling that unaffiliated voters will be participating at higher rates than 2016. I should add that these voters are not the same as self-identified independents in polls. They are people who don’t tend to vote in party primaries,” University of Florida professor Michael P. McDonald wrote In a post shared on the US Election Project’s website.
According to McDonald, who runs the project, these voters tend to be younger and are more often people of colour.
“These infrequent voters are exactly the sorts of people you’d expect to see engaged if there will be a high turnout election. Their larger presence in the electorate could make a significant contribution to the election outcome, beyond the simple partisan differences I’m discussing here to make my election forecasts,” he added.
Most political analysts and polls suggest that Republicans are more likely to cast their ballot on Election Day, while Democrats opt to vote early. The question now is whether Republicans will be able to gain grounds, particularly in key battle ground states, by showing up in overwhelming numbers on polling day.