States reporting massive turnout for early voting, mail-in ballots

FILE – In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, voters line up at an early voting satellite location at the Anne B. Day elementary school in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)

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UPDATED 8:33 AM PT – Saturday, October 17, 2020

Millions of voters have showed up at the polls and sent in their mail-in ballots in what’s being called an “unprecedented” early voting turnout. Concerns about the coronavirus and mail-in voting have been cited for the remarkable turnout.

According to recent reports, more than 21 million voters have cast their ballots either in person or through the mail so far. Around 1.4 million people had already voted by this time during 2016, accounting for more than 15 percent of the total votes during that election.

The Georgia state secretary said nearly 130,000 people cast ballots in the state Monday, smashing the nearly 91,000 votes cast on the first day of the 2016 election. One county said it saw a 484 percent increase from the first day of voting.

Georgia voters expressed a sense of urgency driving them to the polls, saying this election seems to be more complex due to the ongoing pandemic and the candidates.

“I would strongly recommend coming early and getting it done, that way you know it’s done,” stated Georgia resident Steve Butts. “It’s in the system, you don’t have to hear about it on the 6:00 o’clock news about ‘they found a burlap bag full of ballots’ in, you know, out in the woods somewhere.”

In Texas, where early voting started Tuesday, more than 1 million votes have already been cast in a record turnout. Nearly 17 million Texans registered to vote this year, which is up nearly 2 million since 2016.

In Ohio, nearly 200,000 residents cast early votes this week compared to around 64,000 during the same week in the last election.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, voters waited for up to three hours to cast their ballots in some areas when early voting started Thursday.

It’s a beautiful day, people are eager to vote,” said North Carolina resident Jason Roberts. ” If you wait and go next week, I think you’ll see the lines will not be nearly as long as they are today and it will be a much faster process for someone who doesn’t have the time to stand outside.”

According to reports, the number of first time voters choosing to vote early has more than doubled compared to 2016. More than 2 million infrequent voters have also cast ballots compared to 658,000 during the last election.

Officials said the steps taken by states to make it easier to register to vote and cast a ballot likely contributed to the increased turnout. In Virginia, for example, voters can now vote absentee without having to provide a reason and lawmakers have made Election Day a state holiday.

Registered Democrats are reportedly “significantly” outnumbering Republicans in this early turnout and have returned nearly 2.5 million more ballots. However, GOP officials said they are not concerned while pointing out a majority of Republican voters prefer to vote in person, especially on Election Day.

“This is a pattern we are seeing across other states as well — that Democrats in particular are very motivated to turnout, but they are also very motivated to either vote by mail or vote early,”stated Seth Masket, Director of the Center on American Politics, University of Denver. “There is a good deal of enthusiasm among Republicans as well, they are more interested in voting close to or on Election Day.”

One expert who tracks polling data said Democrats may be doing Republicans a favor by voting early thus clearing out polling places for Republicans to vote come Election Day.

RELATED: Thousands of Ohio voters receive the wrong mail-in ballot

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Colorado sees record breaking voter turnout, 24 times the rate of 2016

There has been a surge in the number of ballots returned in Colorado during the first week of early voting, with more than 430,000 votes cast, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold took to Twitter to announce that the number of ballots cast has outstripped this period of time during the 2016 presidential election by a factor of 24.

“Colorado is seeing record turnout,” Griswold said Thursday. “As of yesterday, over 300,000 Coloradans have voted, which is 24 times more than at this point in 2016.”


As of Friday that figure had increased by over 130,000 votes, totaling 436,443 ballots received.

Democrats have been quick to submit their ballots with more than 198,000 votes cast, while Republicans have submitted just over 87,000 votes so far, according to state records.

Colorado has used universal mail-in voting since 2013, meaning the recent surge is not a result of increased requests by Coloradans for mail-in ballots, due to the coronavirus pandemic as all registered voters receive a mail-in ballot automatically.

But during the 2016 presidential race, Colorado had only received 42,416 returned ballots with 19 days left until the Nov. 3 election, a spokesperson confirmed for Fox News Friday.

Although Democrats still exceeded Republicans in the number of mail-in ballots submitted in 2016, the split was far closer with 18,919 Democratic ballots returned, and 12,611 Republican ballots received by this time in the last presidential cycle.

Colorado does allow election-day voting at polling stations on Nov. 3, but there will likely be less in-person voters than during previous years due to the pandemic.

 A spokesperson with the Secretary of State’s office told Fox News that they had “record-breaking turnout” during the June primaries through their mail-in voting system.


A reported 99.3 percent of voters submitted their ballots through the mail for this year’s primaries, and only .7 percent of Coloradans voted in person.

President Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud, though election officials in Colorado rely on a signature verification program, making a fraudulent ballot unlikely.

If a ballot’s signature does not match the previous signature that the state has on record, it will be flagged. But an unwanted result of the signature verification program is younger voters, who have less signatures in the system for comparison, so they are more likely to have their ballots flagged, Griswold explained to Fox News.

The secretary of state has launched a smartphone based solution to address this issue, known as TXT2Cure, which allows younger voters the ability to quickly address their ballots issues.

“Overall, our signature discrepancy rates are extremely low, they’re the lowest in the nation, but they are a lot higher for younger people,” Griswold told Fox News.


“As the youngest secretary of state in the nation, I’m dedicated to doing everything in my power to make sure that every vote counts, especially rolling out technology that we think younger people will find more acceptable,” she added.

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Election 2020 Turnout Could Shatter Records

Republicans say their voters will turn out en masse on Election Day as usual, but Democratic organizers expect that their party’s ability to bank millions of votes in September and October will allow them to focus more resources on increasing turnout in November among those who tend to vote less regularly, including younger voters of color.

The turnout gains in 2018 were broad, encompassing not only a surge among Democrats that delivered them the House majority but also a surge among Trump’s base in red states that helped the GOP simultaneously expand its advantage in the Senate. A similar dynamic could play out this year, increasing the uncertainty about the outcome. Before 2016, McDonald said, Democrats were more likely to benefit from higher overall turnout because their base included constituencies that were historically least likely to vote: young people, voters of color, and lower-income white voters. But working-class white voters have shifted to the right, and though polls show Biden leading in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, it is Trump who could benefit most if turnout increases across the board in the Midwest and the Rust Belt.

Polls that ask respondents about their interest in the election—often a predictor of turnout—show that Republicans are matching Democrats in intensity, but the stark divide between when and how the parties’ supporters plan to vote is creating uncertainty about turnout, and the outcome. “I am really curious to see what is the real Republican enthusiasm at the end of the day,” Alex Morgan, the executive director of the Progressive Turnout Project, told me. “Is this a Joe Biden landslide, or is this a squeaker because they showed up too?”

Morgan’s group, one of the largest non-campaign organizations in the Democratic get-out-the-vote machine, leased 70 offices in 20 states in preparation for the election, but it has entirely foregone door-to-door canvassing and shifted to phone and digital campaigning. The Trump campaign has not given up door-knocking, transforming the 2020 campaign into a massive study on the relative efficacy of in-person versus virtual canvassing.

One possible effect of the Trump campaign’s commitment to in-person canvassing during the pandemic is that Republicans have outpaced Democrats in registering new voters in several important battlegrounds over the past few months. After Morgan and I spoke, the Biden campaign announced in a late about-face that after suspending its in-person ground operations for months, it would dispatch hundreds of trained staff and volunteers to knock on doors in key swing states in an effort to engage voters it could not reach through its phone and texting efforts. For now, the Progressive Turnout Project is sticking with its plan of exclusively virtual canvassing.

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Coronavirus, funerals and sorry business behind record low voter turnout in remote NT

Santa Teresa is less than an hour’s drive from Alice Springs, but with a very rough 60-kilometre road between residents and town, it can feel much further away.

Annie Young said it was why she came out to vote when the Northern Territory Electoral Commission (NTEC) set up a mobile polling booth in the community.

“I want to see politicians do something about the road; it’s been like this for years and nothing’s been done,” Ms Young said.

Ms Young is not alone — many voters the ABC spoke with in Santa Teresa said a wish for a better road and better housing brought them out to vote.

But the Electoral Commission is worried that more than a dodgy dirt track is separating the residents of this remote community from the seat of power.

Santa Teresa resident Annie Young says her vote is for better road and housing.(ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

Record low remote turnout

With a week left until the election, the NTEC says alarmingly few remote community residents have voted.

Of the 359 registered voters in Santa Teresa, just 113 voted when the NTEC set up a mobile polling booth for three hours on a Thursday morning in the community.

The Santa Teresa community members told the ABC that a prominent death in the community and a planned funeral were keeping people away from the polling booth.

The situation is same in other parts of the region.

The 51 communities visited so far by NTEC have a combined total of 3,801 people on the electoral roll, but only 1,856 have cast their vote so far.

Voting delayed
NTEC Commissioner Iain Loganathan is hoping the voter turnout will pick up in the final week of the race.(ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

“The trend is not good, it’s under 50 per cent … a record low turn out,” NTEC Commissioner Iain Loganathan said.

“They might vote in town, they might vote in another community, they might vote by post.

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy and if we have certain segments of our society not voting, it doesn’t augur well.”

Mr Loganathan said just as in Santa Teresa, funerals and sorry business were keeping people away from the polls in a number of other remote communities.

“A lot of funerals have been delayed because of coronavirus and biosecurity area restrictions, and we have tried to accommodate that wherever possible,” he said.

Mr Loganathan said he hoped the trends would be reversed in the final week of the race.

Voting line
It is not clear what impact the record low turnout will have on the election results.(ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

Anyone’s seat to win

Santa Teresa is the largest remote community in the seat of Namatjira, and candidates from four parties personally attended the booth and brought campaigners.

But how this record low remote turnout will affect the race’s outcome remains to be seen.

After undergoing a major redistribution the former bush seat now includes Alice Springs suburbs. The changes mean the seat of Namatjira has no incumbent, with the current member, Chansey Paech, now running in a different electorate.

Matt Paterson, who is one of the candidates, said the low voter turnout would affect everyone equally.

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Northern Territory Electoral Commission concerned by low voter turnout in remote areas

The Northern Territory Electoral Commission says it is concerned by low voter turnout in remote communities in the first days where early voting is open in the 2020 NT election.

Following the close of voting on Wednesday, the commission said remote mobile voting teams had visited 51 remote communities around the NT.

The teams visit many smaller communities in the first week with most of the larger communities visited in the week leading up to the election.

Those 51 communities visited until the close of voting on Wednesday have a combined total of 3,801 people on the electoral roll, but only 1,856 cast their vote during remote voting, the NTEC said.

“In total, of the 51 communities visited so far, 15 of those with an enrolment number of 50 or above have recorded voter turnouts of less than 50 per cent,” NTEC Commissioner Iain Loganathan said in a statement.

“A number of community residents will cast their vote while in town or visiting another community, however, historically the number of votes taken outside the community have not been significant,” he said.

Hopes bigger communities will have larger turnouts

The NTEC had said this election would prove challenging because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 25,000 people in the NT, which includes around 16,000 Indigenous residents, are not enrolled to vote, according to data by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

But there are more than 100 remote communities the NTEC has still to visit.

“Hopefully in the bigger communities such as Maningrida and Wadeye, there will be strong turnouts,” Mr Loganathan said.

He said the NTEC had been collaborating with Aboriginal media organisations CAAMA and First Nations Broadcasting to help grow public awareness about remote voting, in eight Indigenous languages.

“The times and locations of voting in remote areas are also broadcast daily on local radio stations and posted on social media and the NTEC website,” Mr Loganathan said.

“Electors in communities who have supplied their mobile phone numbers through enrolment are also sent SMS messages the day before remote voting teams go to the their community.”

“It is important that remote electors are heard,” Mr Loganathan said.

“We only get one chance every four years to have a say in the Territory’s future.”

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