Former President Donald Trump and his allies have attacked early voting, particularly vote-by-mail programs, prompting some Republicans to abandon a practice that has been embraced in some states for decades. A countervailing force appears to have moderated that objection—more opportunities to vote early.
Fact Check: Trump’s False Code of Mail-in Voting
“We are on an upward trajectory of early voting election after election. “That’s because states are going to vote early more often or more widely,” he said. Michael McDonaldUniversity of Florida political scientist who oversees the Elections Project.
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 40 percent. He expects to get a large share of early ballots this year.
The best comparisons for this year are other midterm elections like 2014 and 2018. Early voting is higher in presidential years, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the overall vote, McDonald said. The role of early voting will be particularly prominent in 2020, when fears of the coronavirus have turned voters to postal ballots in record numbers. That year, 101.5 million Americans cast early ballots, more than double what they did in the 2016 presidential election.
Many factors influence changes in voting behavior. After their experiences in 2020, more voters are familiar with how to vote early and may stick to the habit. Others may be more willing to go to the polls on Election Day because vaccinations are widely available. Arguments against early voting from Trump and his allies may influence how some voters choose to vote.
Meanwhile, early voting rules are different in some places. Unlike in 2018, California, Nevada, Vermont and D.C. are holding this election entirely by mail, while Michigan and Pennsylvania are now offering mail-in independence voting.
Other states have tightened their laws. This summer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court banned ballot boxes in that state, and the Delaware Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court ruling that blocked unexcused absentees from voting.
This year, some Republicans urged voters to hang on to their mail-in ballots until the last possible moment, making it difficult to estimate how many early ballots will ultimately be turned in. Every election cycle, millions of voters request ballots that never arrive. in — either because they don’t vote or choose to vote at the polls instead.
Breaking down Senate, House, gubernatorial races that can be flipped in the midterms
For this cycle, nearly 20 million ballots have been cast in 19 states where voters are registered by party identification, giving insight into who is voting early. In those states, 43 percent of early votes cast so far came 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, heavily Republican states like Oklahoma, and battleground states like Pennsylvania.
Participation in early voting varies by state. In North Carolina, fewer than 2 million early votes were cast, in line with the numbers released in 2018.
This fall in Georgia, in-person voting began earlier than 2018 levels before more closely matching last midterm. In all, 2.5 million in-person and mail-in early votes had been cast in Georgia as of Saturday, up from 2.1 million in 2018.
5.5 million Texans cast early ballots, up from 4.9 million in 2018.