US 2020 elections could have highest voter turnout since 1908
This year's United States Presidential elections could possibly record the highest voter turnout in over a century, data from the US Elections Project indicated on Friday. With 11 days to go in the campaign, over 50 million Americans have cast ballots. Voting this year has been different as many states have allowed in-person early voting and mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
To avoid crowding on election day, several states have adopted mail-in ballots and in-person early voting ahead of the November 3 elections. Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the US Elections Project, has predicted that this high level of early voting could lead to a record turnout of over 150 million, representing 65% of eligible voters—the highest turnout since 1908.
In Texas, voting has already surpassed 70% of the total turnout during the 2016 elections. In Georgia, people were seen waiting in line for over 10 hours to cast their votes. As of this week, a record number of 1.1 million people have returned their ballots in Wisconsin. Further, Virginia, Ohio, and Georgia have also witnessed long lines of voters at early voting sites.
Meanwhile, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the election results may not be declared for days or weeks since election officials would have to count tens of millions of mail-in ballots to determine who between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden would win. Democrats—fearing the US Postal Service (USPS) may not be able to deliver mail-in ballots on time—have urged supporters to vote early.
Further, voting rights advocates are worried due to the ongoing Republican efforts to restrict which votes are counted and how. The Supreme Court has allowed Alabama officials to ban curbside voting. The Iowa Supreme Court also upheld a Republican-backed law that could prevent election officials from sending thousands of mail-in ballots for voters who omitted information on their applications.
According to Michael Herron, a government professor at Dartmouth, and Daniel A Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida, thousands of ballots in the swing states of Florida and North Carolina have been flagged for potential rejection. Writing in The Conversation, they noted that racial minorities and Democrats are likely to have cast more mail-in ballots that face rejection.
Notably, Trump and Biden met for their final pre-election debate on Thursday. Snap polls taken afterward indicated a victory for Biden. Although Trump's four years in the Oval Office have been nothing short of controversial, he has faced increased backlash over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The US is the worst-hit nation with nearly 8.5 million coronavirus infections and over 2.2 lakh deaths.