Early voting has begun in the US. It is estimated that about 18 million people have already voted, about ten times the number at this point in the election cycle in 2016. Given that the total number of people who voted in 2016 was around 137 million, that means that 13% of ballots have already been cast and we could well be on the way to having about a third to half the people voting before election day. In those parts of the country that do not allow mail-in voting for anyone who requests it, we are seeing extremely long lines at polling locations.
In Texas, for example, more than 1 million residents stood in line to cast their votes on Tuesday, the state’s first day of early voting. Despite Gov. Greg Abbott (R) limiting each state county to only having one mail-in ballot drop-off location, the Lone Star State has received roughly 400,000 mailed ballots so far.
Voters in Georgia — which performed the largest voter purge in American history in 2017 — waited in line for up to 12 hours on Monday to vote in-person. About 379,000 Georgians have voted early this week and over 500,000 have mailed in their ballots. Of those who voted in-person, a third were Black.
Early in-person voting doesn’t start in Florida until Monday, but over 2 million Floridians have already mailed in their ballots — more than 20 percent of the total voter turnout the Sunshine State saw in 2016.
Long lines have also been reported in Ohio, lines that could have been avoided but were caused by deliberate Republican efforts to make voting harder, especially in those areas that they think are more likely to vote Democratic.
In-person early voting started in Ohio this week, and in the state’s largest cities, it was a total mess. In Columbus, the line stretched for a quarter of a mile. In Cuyahoga county, the hours-long wait began before polls even opened.
All of this was entirely predictable. Thanks to an Ohio state law passed in 2006 by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by a Republican governor, the number of in-person early voting sites is limited to just one per county. That means Vinton County, a Republican stronghold in the state’s southeast that’s home to just 13,500 Ohioans, has approximately 97 times more polling-places-per-voter than Franklin County, the deep-blue bastion with a population of more than 1.3 million.
The increased early voting may not be entirely due to increased enthusiasm. It may be due to the pandemic, though that would only explain the rise in mail-in voting and not the people who are waiting in line for hours to vote. It also does not mean that the voter enthusiasm is all on the Democratic side. Beleaguered Trump supporters may also be fired up by the prospect that their hero might lose and decided that they must vote early too.
As I said in an earlier post, the efforts at voter suppression are so blatant that it risks backfiring on Republicans if makes Democrats become even more determined to vote.