The number of early votes exceeds the total of early votes in the 2018 midterm elections


Americans voted more ahead of Election Day than they did in early voting before the last midterm elections, continuing a trend to increasingly rely on early voting despite vocal objections of some Republicans.

As of Saturday, voters had cast more than 39 million ballots, surpassing the number of early votes in 2018, according to data maintained by the United States Election Project. This year’s total will increase as election officials are still receiving mail-in ballots and some states are allowing in-person early voting throughout the weekend.

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have attacked early voting, especially postal voting programs, prompting some Republicans to abandon a practice they have adopted in some states for decades. A countervailing force seems to have compensated for this opposition – more opportunities to vote early.

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“We’ve had an upward trajectory of early voting from election to election and that’s because states are offering early voting more frequently or more widely,” said Michael McDonaldthe University of Florida political scientist overseeing the electoral draft.

Early voting has been on the rise for a long time. In 2014, about 31% of ballots were cast by mail or at early voting locations, McDonald said. In 2018, it rose to around 40%. He expects early polls to take a larger share this year.

The best comparison for this year is to other midterm elections like 2014 and 2018. Early voting is higher during presidential years, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the overall vote, McDonald said. The role of early voting has been particularly important in 2020, when fears of the coronavirus caused voters to turn to postal voting in record numbers. That year, Americans cast 101.5 million early votes, more than double what they did in the 2016 presidential election.

Many factors influence changes in voting behavior. After their experience in 2020, more voters know how to vote early and can stick to this practice. Others may be more willing to go to the polls on Election Day now that vaccines are widely available. And arguments against early voting from Trump and his allies could affect how some voters choose to vote.

Meanwhile, early voting rules in some places are changing. Unlike 2018, California, Nevada, Vermont and DC are holding this election entirely by mail, and Michigan and Pennsylvania now offer no-excuse voting by mail.

Other states have tightened their rules. The Wisconsin Supreme Court this summer ballot boxes prohibited in that state and the Delaware Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court decision who blocked postal voting with no excuse there.

This year, some Republicans have urged voters to hold on to their mail-in ballots until the last possible moment, making it difficult to estimate how many early ballots will eventually be delivered. Every election cycle, millions of voters request mail-in ballots that they never return. in — either because they don’t vote or because they decide to vote at the polls instead.

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For this cycle, nearly 20 million votes were cast in 19 states that conducted party ID voter registration, which helps track who is voting early. In those states, 43% of the early votes to date have come from voters registered as Democrats, 34% from Republicans and 23% from those who are unaffiliated or belong to a third party.

The 19 states include Democratic-dominated states like California, heavily Republican states like Oklahoma and battleground states like Pennsylvania.

Participation in early voting varies by state. In North Carolina, just under 2 million early votes were cast, matching the number cast in 2018.

In Georgia this fall, in-person early voting started well above 2018 levels before matching more closely in the last half of the year. A total of 2.5 million early votes were cast in person and by mail in Georgia on Saturday, up from 2.1 million in 2018.

Texans cast 5.5 million early votes, up from 4.9 million in 2018.

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