It's finally Election Day, and Americans are lining up at polls nationwide to cast their votes. But before Tuesday even rolled around, over 100 million people voted early in the 2020 election. While it'll take time to tell exactly how many Americans voted this year, it's pretty safe to say that 2020 will probably squash 2016's voter turnout.
The potential for 2020 to have a record turnout was seen early on. At the end of September, the U.S. Election Project, run by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, found that nearly 1 million people had voted already. McDonald reported that at the same time in 2016, only 9,525 people had voted.
In the ensuing month, of course, more people have hit the polls. Early Tuesday morning, McDonald reported that a little over 99.6 million people voted in the general election by Nov. 2. By middway Tuesday, the number had surpassed 100 million early voters.
To put these numbers into perspective, about 139 million people voted in the 2016 elections, including early voters as well as people who showed up at the polls the day of. So in comparison, with early voting alone, 2020 voters have already matched 72.5% of the total turnout in the 2016 general election.
The 2020 election is unique, of course, given that it is occurring in the middle of a pandemic. Many Americans had to turn to mail-in voting as a safe alternative to lining up in-person. As a result, a lot of partisan battles and even lawsuits from citizens against the Trump administration sought to protect the United States Postal Service and ensure that these ballots were counted.
Early on, President Trump basically admitted to trying to kill the USPS to sabotage mail-in voting and suppress turnout. In key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Republicans tried to push back against extensions on counting mail-in ballots, baselessly claiming that these extensions would lead to chaos. However, the Supreme Court decided to keep the extensions, which recently prompted Trump to threaten legal action to stop valid mail-in votes from being counted, which is basically voter suppression.
Yet despite Trump's and the larger Republican Party's attacks on mail-in voting, McDonald reported that the majority of early votes came from mailed ballots. Per his findings, about 35 million of early votes were in-person while almost 64 million were absentee ballots.
Importantly, McDonald noted that there were still 28 million outstanding ballots. If they're mailed by Tuesday, whether or not those ballots will be counted depends on the state. For example, Pennsylvania allows ballots to be counted so long as they are postmarked by Election Day. But in Georgia, a court decision earlier this month overturned a ruling that would have allowed that state to do the same. Instead, mail-in ballots will not be counted after Election Day, regardless of when they were postmarked.
Still, it's clear that early voting this year absolutely crushed 2016. While people may not show up at the polls today in similar numbers due to the pandemic, 2020 is projecting to have quite the turnout no matter what.