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How high will turnout be in the 2020 election and how will it matter?


Per Michael McDonald . . . must . . . not . . . make . . . Yacht Rock . . . joke . . . there are about 239.2 million eligible voters in the USA right now, up from 230.6 million in 2016, 60.2% who voted in the presidential election (138.8 million votes, including a few hundred thousand who didn’t vote for any presidential candidate).

Assuming the same rate of participation, we would have just about exactly 144 million votes cast in this election.

Right now, it looks like it’s going to be a lot higher than that.

Some stats: The night before the 2016 election, about 46.26 million people had voted. This means that about 92 million people voted on Election Day, including people who mailed in ballots in states accepting mail in ballots postmarked by Election Day, and people who dropped off mail in ballots in person in states that didn’t.

As of right now, at least 80.72 million people have already voted. This number has been growing by about five million people per day for the last several days. The total number of early votes, not counting mail-in votes either not received by Election Day, or cast on it, seems likely to reach somewhere around 95 to 100 million.

A really critical question is: How many people are going to cast their vote on Tuesday? The reason this is critical is that the available evidence points to the conclusion that Joe Biden is going to have an enormous lead among ballots cast before Election Day, and Donald Trump along with, critically, all the GOP senatorial candidates trying to ride his ill-tailored coattails, are going to have to depend on a massive wave of voting on Tuesday to have any chance overcoming that.

How big is Biden’s pre-Election Day lead going to be? The CNN poll I referenced yesterday found that Biden is leading Trump by 64% to 34% among voters who have already voted, and 63% to 33% among voters who still plan to vote early, while Trump leads by 59% to 36% among people who plan to vote on Election Day.

Assuming that 160 million people end up voting for either Biden or Trump — this would be more than 30 million more votes than were cast collectively for Clinton and Trump in 2016 — and that 95 million of those votes are cast before election day, here’s how the numbers shake out if the CNN poll is accurate:

Before Election Day:

Biden 60.8 million votes

Trump 32.3 million votes

On Election Day

Trump 38.35 million votes

Biden 23.4 million votes


Biden 84.2 million

Trump 70.65 million

This would be by far the most lopsided loss ever for an incumbent president as measured by total vote margin. (Yes I know it’s a Republic not a Democracy but if Biden gets anything close to 14 million more raw votes he’s not going to lose the Electoral College. Our system is crazy but not quite yet that crazy).

The 95 million early votes estimate is likely to be pretty close. The 65 million votes on Election Day estimate is obviously just a guess, but note that it would translate into a 67% participation rate by eligible voters for the election as a whole, which would be the highest total since before World War I. If it’s lower than that, that would be better for Biden, since he’s doing so well in the pre-Election Day voting, in regard to which the hay is already mostly in the barn.

It’s hard to imagine it could be much higher, but it’s 2020 so who knows?

At the individual state level, many of the early voting numbers are astonishing: Texans have already cast more than 8.5 million votes, equal to 95% of the TOTAL vote — early and on Election Day — in 2016. (Knowledgeable people are saying that if 11 million people end up voting in Texas, which seems extremely likely at this point, Biden has an excellent shot at taking the biggest possible prize out there).

Florida has already seen nearly 7.4 million votes cast — 77% of the 2016 total — and Florida records and tabulates its early ballots prior to Election Day, and releases them when polls close. It’s quite possible that Florida could be called early on Tuesday night, because by 10 or so Eastern Time 98% or more of the vote will already have been counted, meaning that a lead of just a couple of hundred thousand votes would be enough to call it.

Fingers crossed and pedals to the metals . . .

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