Former President Donald Trump and his allies have attacked early voting, particularly mail-in voting, prompting some Republicans to abandon the practice they have followed in other states for decades. A countervailing force seems to have overridden that opposition – more opportunities to vote early.
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“We’ve been making progress in early voting from election to election and that’s because states are offering early voting more often or more,” he said. Michael McDonalda political scientist at the University of Florida who oversees the election process.
Early voting has been booming. In 2014, about 31 percent of votes were cast by mail or at early voting locations, McDonald said. In 2018, it increased by almost 40 percent. He expects primary elections to play a major role this year.
This year’s best comparison is to other midterm elections such as 2014 and 2018. Early voting tends to be higher in presidential years, both in black numbers and as a share of the total vote, McDonald said. Early voting became more popular in 2020, when fears of the coronavirus prompted voters to send in more ballots. That year, Americans cast 101.5 million early votes, twice as many as they did in the 2016 presidential election.
There are many factors that influence the change in ratings. After their experience in 2020, many voters know how to vote early and can follow this practice. Some may be willing to go to the polls on Election Day as vaccinations become more widely available. And the arguments against early voting by Trump and his allies could influence how some voters choose their ballots.
Meanwhile, early voting laws in some jurisdictions are changing. Unlike in 2018, California, Nevada, Vermont and DC are making this election by mail, and Michigan and Pennsylvania are now providing reasons for voting without a reason.
Some countries have tightened their laws. The Wisconsin Supreme Court this summer banned ballot boxes in the state and the Delaware Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court ruling that banned ballots without reason.
This year, some Republicans have encouraged voters to write in their ballots until the deadline, making it difficult to estimate how many early voters will ultimately vote. in — either because they are not voting or have chosen to vote instead.
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At this time, about 20 million votes have been cast in the 19 districts that have a party-based voter registration system, providing information on who is voting early. In those states, 43 percent of early votes so far have come from registered voters who are Democrats, 34 percent from Republicans and 23 percent from unaffiliated or third-party voters.
The 19 states include Democratic-controlled states like California, heavily Republican states like Oklahoma and battleground states like Pennsylvania.
Participation in early voting varies by state. In North Carolina, just under 2 million early votes were cast, matching the number cast in 2018.
In Georgia this fall, early in-person voting started well above 2018 levels before being very similar among finalists. In all, 2.5 million early votes were cast in person and by mail in Georgia as of Saturday, up from 2.1 million in 2018.
Texans cast 5.5 million votes, up from 4.9 million in 2018.