Record Turnout as Americans Endure Long Waits to Vote Early in 2020 Election
A ‘pretty staggering’ 14 million Americans have already voted in the general election, according to an analysis
As voters turn out in record numbers to choose between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Americans continued to endure hours-long waits to vote early.
A record of 14 million Americans have already voted in the general election, according to an analysis of voting information from the US Elections Project. In key swing states such as Florida more than 2 million voters have already cast their ballots.
“The numbers are pretty staggering for us and the return rates and the polling look good,” Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida, told Politico. “But there’s just a lot we don’t know.”
In Georgia, residents waited for as long as eight hours to exercise their democratic right. Many took to social media to share their experiences with early voting, noting lines of voters spanning several city blocks or school parking lots.
Political analyst Roland Martin was moved to tears as dozens of voters lined the exterior of a voting center located at a Texas church.
“I’m a grown man, but I have no problem showing this type of emotion because I know what is at stake for our people,” he wrote on Instagram. “I know what Black folks have been through in this country. Voting is not the be-all-to-end-all, but I sure as hell know it is part of the solution”.
Long lines are not the only obstacles voters have faced. Technical glitches have also delayed the process. Voters have also faced barriers to accessing their ballots, including computer problems in some precincts as well as legal challenges in places throughout the US south.
In Georgia, whose Republican administration has fought accusations of voter suppression, residents reported technical problems that initially slowed voting, including at one voting center in Atlanta.
Democrats have made a push for the traditionally red state in recent weeks, insisting Georgia is competitive. Nearly 750,000 votes have been cast thus far.
Authorities in Virginia are investigating a voter registration portal that crashed on Tuesday. Officials have so far ruled a cable that was cut an accident, but the glitch shut down the entire system on the last day to register. A Virginia court has since extended the voter registration deadline to 15 October.
Both parties have steered their supporters toward mail-in and early voting due to a surge in cases of coronavirus in many states across the nation, amid a pandemic that is not under control. Worrying case rises are being experienced in battleground states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Before, health experts had warned that large crowds on election day could worsen the health risks.
But in an effort to stifle early voting in key battleground states, Republican governors and legislators have launched legal challenges to everything from ballot drop-off locations and quantity of sites, to submission and counting deadlines.
On Monday, a Texas appeals court upheld an executive order by Governor Greg Abbott limiting ballot drop-box locations to one per county, meaning a place like Harris county, with a population of 4.7 million – including its largest city of Houston – is left severely underserved.
According to the US Elections Project, 50,000 ballots had already been cast in 122 early voting locations in the county by midday Tuesday – the first day of early voting.
Early voting begins on Thursday in the key electoral state of North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Republican state party officials in California were forced to remove unofficial drop boxes placed throughout the state. Election officials there say the unofficial drop boxes do not meet required security and transfer benchmarks.
And in Pennsylvania, a judge over the weekend denied an effort by the Trump campaign and the Republican party to make ballot drop boxes in the commonwealth unconstitutional. While a federal judge reopened voter registration in the state through Thursday, in Florida, a bid to extend its the voter registration deadline was rejected.
Nearly 130 million Americans voted in the presidential election in 2016. Turnout is expected to exceed those numbers for an election that most analysts say can determine the political trajectory for a generation.
Early returns show a commanding lead for Democrats, even as most polls show their supporters are more likely to favor early or mail-in voting compared with Republicans. Conservatives, who are also more likely to ignore official federal coronavirus guidance, are more committed to vote in the traditional way, in person on election day.
A surge in mail-in voting in a pandemic has fueled unfounded claims by Trump that the election will be one of the most corrupt in the nation’s history.