Number of early votes cast surpasses early-vote total in 2018 midterm election


Americans voted more before Election Day than they did in the last midterm election, continuing the trend toward greater reliance on early voting, despite strong opposition from some Republicans.

As of Saturday, voters had cast more than 39 million ballots, surpassing the number of early ballots cast in 2018, according to the United States Elections Project. This year’s total is expected to rise because election officials are still receiving mail-in ballots and some states are allowing in-person early voting on weekends.

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have attacked early voting, particularly vote-by-mail programs, prompting some Republicans to abandon a decades-old practice in some states. A countervailing force seems to have offset this opposition—more opportunities to vote early.

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“We’ve been on an upward trajectory of early voting from election to election as states offer early voting more often or more widely,” he said. Michael McDonaldA political scientist at the University of Florida, oversees the election project.

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Early voting has been on the rise for a long time. In 2014, about 31 percent of ballots were cast by mail or at early voting locations, McDonald said. In 2018, it increased to about 40 percent. He expects early voting to get a bigger share this year.

The best comparisons this year are the other midterm elections in 2014 and 2018. Early voting is higher in presidential years, both in raw numbers and as a share of the total vote, McDonald said. The role of early voting was particularly evident in 2020, when the threat of the coronavirus drove voters to vote by mail in record numbers. Americans cast 101.5 million early votes that year, twice as many as in the 2016 presidential election.

Many factors influence changes in voting behavior. After their 2020 experience, more voters know how to vote early and follow the practice. Others may be ready to go to the polls on Election Day because vaccines are widely available. And the arguments against early voting by Trump and his allies could sway some voters.

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

Other states have tightened their rules. The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a ban on drop-off ballots in that state this summer, and last month the Delaware Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that blocked absentee ballots there without excuse.

This year, some Republicans have encouraged voters to hold off on mail-in ballots until the last possible moment, making it difficult to predict how many early ballots will ultimately be submitted. Every election cycle, millions of voters request ballots that are never turned in. with — either because they don’t vote or choose to vote at polling stations instead.

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Senate, House, and gubernatorial races could change in the midterms

About 20 million ballots for this cycle were cast in 19 states that register voters by party identification, giving an idea of ​​who is voting early. In those states, 43 percent of early votes so far have come from voters registered as Democrats, 34 percent from Republicans and 23 percent from unaffiliated or third-party voters.

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

Early voting participation varies by state. In North Carolina, just under 2 million early votes were cast, according to the 2018 count.

In Georgia this fall, early in-person voting began well above 2018 levels, before more closely matching the last midterm. A total of 2.5 million early votes had been cast in Georgia as of Saturday, compared to 2.1 million in 2018 in person and by mail.

Texans voted 5.5 million early, up from 4.9 million in 2018.


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