Holding a presidential election in the middle of a pandemic is less than ideal. That's especially true when the president tries to sabotage mail-in voting. Still, early numbers show that nearly 1 million Americans have already voted. While there's still over 30 days to go until the election, this suggests that 2020 may see incredibly high voter turnout.
This information comes from the U.S. Election Project, which is run by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor. By using early voting data published by 25 states, McDonald tabulated that at least 944,114 people have voted so far. However, because every state doesn't report early voting data, he also noted that the real number could be much, much higher.
Back in 2016, McDonald found that only 9,525 people had voted by this time in the cycle. And again, while the lack of early-voting data from all states means any comparison between then and now should be read with caution, such a disparity still suggests that 2020 is seeing a much higher turnout. After all, to put it into perspective, McDonald's data says 86 times as many people have voted to this point in 2020 compared to the same time in 2016.
Throughout the summer, President Trump has been intent on fraudulently painting mail-in voting as less secure, even going so far as to attempt to sabotage the United States Postal Service, apparently to impede its ability to distribute and deliver ballots. When it comes to bashing mail-in voting, many Republicans nationwide have followed his lead: Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to overturn a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that says any mail-in ballot received up to three days after the elections should be counted.
The ruling, which came earlier this month, was widely celebrated as a win for Democrats, who tend to support expanded access to the franchise. And so far, McDonald's data is proving that strategy to be a good one for Democrats: In North Carolina, for example, registered Democrats have returned almost 92,000 more ballots than registered Republicans have, though that could certainly change as Election Day nears.
Overall, this election has the potential to have the highest voter turnout in over 100 years, according to McDonald. Why? As he wrote: "People are making a choice to vote at their first opportunity. The most likely explanation for this phenomenon is Donald Trump. Whether you love him or hate him, he inspires passion unlike any other political figure."