Fearing Late Votes Might Not Count, Millions Cast Ballots Around America

October 16, 2020by James Rainey, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times
A ballot drop box in a District neighborhood.

HOUSTON _ Haunted by the specter of a potentially fragile election system, Americans are voting early in unprecedented numbers _ a possible harbinger of record turnout for a modern-day election in the U.S.

With 19 days to go before the Nov. 3 election, about 18.4 million Americans had mailed in ballots or cast votes in person by the end of the day Thursday. If that pace continues, the U.S. will mark a first: More votes cast before Election Day than on it.

In Georgia, some voters waited at polling stations for as long as 11 hours, lining up across parking lots and around strip malls with folding chairs, parasols and coolers. In Vermont, the all-mail-in vote had already reached 35% of the total vote for 2016. And New Jersey, Wisconsin and Virginia voters had cast a quarter of the number of the total ballots submitted in their states four years ago.

“The pace of voting is astounding. It’s truly remarkable,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor and voting expert. The massive advance balloting is effectively “flattening the curve” for elections officials, McDonald said, hopefully allaying fears that a late burst of ballots could complicate tabulations and postpone the outcome of the presidential election.

“People are voting. The system is working,” McDonald wrote on Twitter, adding a pointed commentary about President Donald Trump: “It will be difficult to claim the election is fraudulent, although the tweeter-in-chief will try.”

Early vote-by-mail ballots came from registered Democrats in much larger numbers than from registered Republicans. Democrats had returned nearly 4.4 million nationally by Thursday, while Republicans had returned nearly 1.9 million.

Election analysts said the surge could signal greater enthusiasm among Democrats and those determined to force Trump out of office. But Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, also held an apparent edge in early votes in battleground states, only to see a wave of Trump supporters wash her advantage away on Election Day.

Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic voter enhancement firm TargetSmart, said the unprecedented nature of this year’s vote made it impossible to rely on old models. It remains unknown, for instance, how many mail-in votes will be canceled because of problems such as inadequate signatures.

“Still, it’s clear that Democrats have a lead now and will go into Election Day with a significant lead,” Bonier said. “But we just don’t know how many Republicans are going to turn up on Election Day. So nobody is just going to sit back and take the next 19 days off.”

The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment.

Many of those who crowded early-vote centers expressed fears about trusting their ballot to the U.S. Postal Service. Democrats had heard reports about Republican cutbacks in staffing and vote-sorting machines. Republicans had seen pictures of ballots tossed in the trash.

Twenty-three states had opened centers for in-person voting by Thursday.

“It’s scary,” said Michele Jones, a 49-year-old special-education teacher from Grayson, Georgia, who voted this week. “I don’t trust what’s said by the powers that be. … Could we not be who we are anymore? Could we lose our democracy?”

Jones said she voted for Joe Biden in hopes of improving police accountability and the nation’s health care.

In the Houston suburb of Cypress, Texas, Trump supporter Patricia Skinner, 76, said she worried more about voter fraud than about COVID-19. She wore a mask Wednesday only when she entered her polling place _ a German dance hall turned community center.

Skinner said she voted for Trump in part because she sees Americans losing their liberties because of pandemic shutdowns, including the right to go to church.

The sense that the presidential contest is of historic import was one sentiment that crossed party lines.

Gale Barden, who emerged from the polling place after Skinner, said she felt compelled to cast her ballot in person, despite concerns about voters who refused to wear masks.

“I needed to do it in person and see that flag go up,” recording her vote, said Barden, 63, who voted for Biden. “This is more important than voting for President Obama, the first Black president. We just can’t risk it. When you don’t trust the system, you have to do what you have to do.”

In the county surrounding Houston, 128,000 people had voted in person Tuesday, nearly double the number who had voted by this time in 2016. Statewide, more than 1.6 million had voted by Thursday, three-quarters of them in person.

North Carolina’s early-vote centers opened Thursday and some people waited two hours to cast their ballots. More than half a million already had voted by mail in the battleground state. (More than half of the mail-in voters were Democrats, with the next largest mail-in group being those with no party affiliation.)

Pennsylvania also had a flotilla of votes coming through the mail, with ballots returned by registered Democrats outnumbering those from Republicans by nearly 5 to 1: 393,233 versus 82,468.

The votes in several states turned historical norms “topsy-turvy,” with Republicans more prone to vote in person this election, while Democrats have favored voting through the mail, said McDonald, who runs the U.S. Elections Project.

Past elections in many states had shown Republicans as more likely to vote by mail. But Trump appears to be at least partly responsible for reversing that norm, with his repeated and unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail increases the chance of fraud.

Veteran voters recalled living through many elections deemed the “most important of our lifetimes.” This time, many said, the description seemed to fit.

Patsy Brock, 77, said she had trouble securing a mail-in ballot in Georgia and so came in person to vote to reelect Trump.

“I don’t trust anything anymore,” said Brock of Lawrenceville, northeast of Atlanta. “I trust God, but nobody can be trusted on what they say.”

Audrey George, 27, said she has felt isolated and helpless during the long pandemic siege. She works from home as an oil and gas trader and sometimes feels overwhelmed with stress. Voting for Biden at a community center near downtown Houston represented a small step toward reclaiming control.

“This is something I can actually do,” she said, “to make a difference.”


Hennessy-Fiske reported from Houston, Jarvie from Atlanta and Rainey from Los Angeles.


(c)2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


GOP White House Hopefuls Move Forward as Trump Considers Run
Political News
GOP White House Hopefuls Move Forward as Trump Considers Run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Less than three months after former President Donald Trump left the White House, the race to succeed him atop the Republican Party is already beginning. Trump's former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has launched an aggressive schedule, visiting states that will play a... Read More

Georgia's Abrams Navigates Voting Law Fight With Eye on 2022
In The States
Georgia's Abrams Navigates Voting Law Fight With Eye on 2022

ATLANTA (AP) — President Joe Biden called Georgia's new voting law an "atrocity." A leading Black bishop called for a national boycott of companies headquartered in the state. But when Stacey Abrams, the state's well-known voting rights advocate, is asked about the law that has set... Read More

Warren Buffett Joins Effort by Corporate America to Condemn Voting Restrictions
Political News
Warren Buffett Joins Effort by Corporate America to Condemn Voting Restrictions
April 18, 2021
by Dan McCue

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett joined hundreds of other capitalists and corporate titans in signing an open letter condeming “discrimnatory” legislation designed to curtail voting rights. The letter, which appeared under the headline “We Stand for Democracy,” appeared as a double-page, centerfold advertisement in Thursday’s editions of... Read More

Texas Legislature Poised to Pass State Voting Restrictions
In The States
Texas Legislature Poised to Pass State Voting Restrictions
April 7, 2021
by Reece Nations

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republicans are moving to pass their own set of limits on voting as legislation restricting early voting access awaits a House committee assignment.  The Texas bill, one of 361 bills pending nationwide with restrictive provisions, passed along party lines in the Senate... Read More

Companies Unite to Join Voting Rights Battle
In The States
Companies Unite to Join Voting Rights Battle

WASHINGTON - Nearly 200 companies have come out against Republican voting legislation critics say is simply a blatant attempt to disenfranchise millions of Black and minority voters. The chief executives of Dow, Levi’s Survey Monkey, PayPal and Uber were among the more than 170 executives who... Read More

Major League Baseball Pulls All-Star Game From Georgia
In The States
Major League Baseball Pulls All-Star Game From Georgia
April 2, 2021
by TWN Staff

Major League Baseball said Friday it would move its annual All-Star Game out of Georgia, citing the state government’s recent decision to put in place more restrictive measures on who is able to vote in coming elections. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top