With 22 days left in the presidential race, the statistics on early voting — both by mail and in person — are fascinating:
(1) As of this morning states had reported receiving nearly 10.6 million ballots already. This compares with 1.4 million votes at the same point in the cycle in 2016.
(2) The early vote is to this point overwhelmingly dominated by registered Democrats. States that track party affiliation of mail-in ballots have recorded about 2.6 million votes cast by Democrats, compared to 1.1 million cast by Republicans. In these states Democrats have requested 22.4 million ballots, while Republicans have requested 14.5 million.
(3) All these numbers reflect poll data which reveal a huge partisan split on the question of whether someone plans to vote in person on November 3rd, rather than early (Again, either by mail or in person. Many states still make it very difficult to vote by mail-in ballot, even in the midst of pandemic, so people who don’t want to stand in long crowded lines on election day in those states need to take advantage of early in-person voting, assuming that’s available. Are there states that still offer neither no excuse needed voting by mail, nor early in person voting? I don’t know; please note it in the comments if you do).
Apparently, it’s become part of the identity politics of right wing culture warriors that it’s bad to vote early, and this belief is being reflected in the actual behavior of voters. Unbelievably — this is a rhetorical gesture; it’s actually quite believable — there are tens of millions of right wing voters who would prefer to incur all the various hassles and dangers of voting in-person on election day rather than to take advantage of the various reforms that are finally making it possible for Americans to vote in a more rational manner. (Discouraging early voting is also almost certainly going to reduce the Republican vote total, since it’s in effect encouraging procrastination on the part of your potential voters, and as a result some of them simply will end up not voting at all).
Michael McDonald, an election law expert at the University of Florida whose site I link above, is predicting that around 150 million ballots will be cast in the 2020 election, up from 137 million four years earlier. What a fool believes is that Republicans in general and Trump in particular won’t try to exploit the fact that far more Republicans than Democrats will vote on November 3rd to delegitimate the early vote, which at this rate could actually end up constituting half or more of the total ballots cast.
This is why it’s critical that some states prepare the early vote to be counted immediately on election day as part of the reported vote total, while others don’t. Hopefully the media will be careful to take those distinctions into account, as the Republicans are busy claiming on election night that a tsunami of Patriotic Americans have shown up at the polls, allowing them to declare a shocking victory over the Fake News polls etc etc.