A Possible Record Turnout of Voters in 2020

But the total vote count won’t be known for some time

By Alise Jarvis

Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, people have been questioning whether this election might have a record turnout of voters. With COVID-19 still looming over the nation, many have chosen to cast their vote via mail-in ballot. This allows us to see some numbers early. Already at the start of Nov. 3 election day, the number of mail-in ballots was far higher than in the years before. It had reached just under 100 million by election day.

At 100 million, this count equates over two-thirds of the total number of votes counted in the 2016 presidential election. With the mail-in ballot and early-voter count already so high, officials are wondering whether this election will have a record turnout of voters. Once all the in-person votes cast on election day are accounted for, we may find we have the highest percentage of votes cast since the 1908 election (65.7 percent turnout). 

In the 2016 election, the total number of votes tallied to 139 million, about 60 percent of the voting age population. In the 2008 presidential election, the number of votes set a new record turnout of voters for the past 50 years. The tally of votes in that election reached 61.65 percent of the voting population. 

This year, the US Elections Project estimated the tally would reach just over 65 percent. This would mean that 150 million US citizens will have casted their vote in the 2020 election. On Nov. 4, the votes are still being tallied up and the new president is yet to be declared, so we don’t yet know the exact number of people who have voted so far. 

Already four states have experienced higher voter turnout in this election than in the 2016 election. According to the US Election Project, Hawaii, Texas, Washington, and Montana have had more votes cast leading up to Nov. 3 than in the previous election. 

But Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who is running the US Elections Project stated, “I have increasingly been confident that 150 [million] is probably a lowball estimate.” 

Why are more people turning out to vote early this year?

Some speculate that COVID-19 has made people more proactive to vote this year. Additionally, due to the virus, states have taken measures to ease mail-in or online voting for those who can’t visit the poles on election day. This has caused more people to vote early this year, as compared with the past elections.

Some also say that US citizens are realizing their vote matters now more than ever before. With political divisions so tense this election season, every vote matters. Exemplifying this, the Guardian quotes Carmen Roche of Texas who stated, “I’m 50 years old now. You see things in another perspective. How many times can you vote in your life? There’s not that many. There are none you can afford to lose. You always talk about ‘freedom’ and this is that – the option to choose.” 

In a presidential race where tensions are high it’s no wonder people are turning out in droves to vote early. We can’t know for sure yet how many US citizens voted in this election, but looking at the ballot count so far, we can see that there is a good possibility that we may reach a record turnout of voters in this election.