Without question the 2020 election will go down in history as one of the most bizarre and chaotic elections in American history. We don’t know yet who will be the victor. But what is interesting to look at is the path that candidates up and down the ballot have taken to arrive at the finish line, and it is clearly uncharted territory for all of them. Every campaign has had to adapt to the realities of COVID-19, such as surging vote by mail requests and returns, and find new ways to engage voters. With a few days left before Election Day, we can already start to see some interesting data and voting trends. Let’s take a look at three important swing states.
With ten electoral college votes, Wisconsin has seen Democrats and Republicans win, lose, take and retake control at the state and federal level. With mail ballots rolling in, one day after early voting began in the Badger State more than a million people had already cast absentee ballots. That’s more than 35% of the state’s entire presidential turnout in 2016, marking a major boost in mail ballot returns. The state had some issues during the April primary, but it had made changes to ensure that the general elections went smoother even as COVID cases started to rise in October.
Mail in voting wasn’t the only way people were voting in record numbers. In just the first three days of early voting, almost 80,000 Wisconsinites had voted at the polls. As of this writing, over 1.7 million people have voted early in person or by mail in Wisconsin. Wisconsin does not allow mail-in or in-person absentee ballots to be counted until the morning of election day, with a potential of more than 2 million early votes needing to be fed into counting machines, it could take several days just to count the ballots, and continued court battles about when ballots must arrive could delay the results further.
Early voting is well underway in Pennsylvania, a state with 9 million registered voters and the coveted prize of 20 electoral college votes. 2.1 million—or more than one fifth—have already mailed or turned in their ballots to county election offices, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. County election offices across Pennsylvania approved 3,097,890 mail-in ballot requests as of October 30, indicating another surge of requests in the battleground state.
Last weekend, Pennsylvania passed the halfway mark of mail-in ballots returned, according to the U.S. Elections Project. As of Oct. 26, 56.7 percent of ballots requested had been returned. As of this writing, over 2.1 million mail ballots had been returned in the Keystone State. Democrats make up 62.9% of all mail ballot requests, whereas Republicans claim 25% of the mail ballot share. Just like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania cannot start counting these ballots until the morning of election day, and it will take time to count what could easily be more than half of the number of ballots cast in 2016, and expect voter turnout in 2020 to surpass last election’s total.
With five days yet to go before Election Day, voters in 60/67 Florida counties have already cast more absentee and early-voting ballots than they did during the entire pre-Election Day stretch in the 2016 general election.
As of Thursday morning, Democratic strongholds of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties have all outpaced 2016 early ballot totals. Palm Beach County, home of the Winter White House, leads the state, casting nearly 25% more votes so far this election than 2016′s early voting total.
Overall, about 7.8 million of Florida’s 14.4 million voters have cast their ballots so far at early voting polls or through the mail, putting the turnout rate at about 54% of the state’s registered voters with days to go. While mail ballot requests have surged in the state, a large chunk of voters are still out there, indicating an Election Day surge, typically a high-turnout day for Republicans as opposed to Democrats. Already, early in-person and mail-in voters have surpassed 80% of 2016’s turnout.
As of this writing, a record 7.8 million of Florida’s 14.4 million registered voters had already cast ballots; 2.9 million Republicans (38%); 3.1 million Democrats (40%) and 1.6 million independents (21%). Unlike the previous two states, Florida has already started to count early ballots and will not count any ballots received after 7pm on election day. Election watchers could see results released on election night, however as history has shown, re-counts could easily delay the official announcement.
What a lot of people should remember is that heading into 2020, the Republican Party of Florida did something it had never done before – close the party registration gap with state Democrats to 134,000, the smallest it has ever been. Of all the swing states, Florida is clearly the prize, and now legally the home state of President Trump. With a large chunk of registered voters still out there in the Sunshine State, one that typically has close to 80% turnout, the Election Day surge may be what the President needs, and has been relying on, to keep the White House in Republican hands.
With 33 state and DC holding ballots until election day to count (17 cannot begin until after polls close) and more than 55 million mail-in ballots requested in those states, it is likely that many results will take days to process the final vote totals. While many of these late counting states are clearly either in President Trump (Mississippi, South Dakota, Arkansas) or Former Vice President Biden’s favor (California, New York), the time required to count votes in battleground states will determine the time it takes to decide a winner.