In the weeks leading up to Election Day, news outlets predicted the United States was on its way to surpassing the 150 million voter threshold for the very first time in the nation's history as a record number of people voted early, in person, and by mail. Considering more than 99 million people cast their votes before Nov. 3, you might be wondering how many people voted in the 2020 election in total. Here's what helped contribute to a surge in voting numbers this year despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While the 2020 presidential election cycle was plagued by concerns over delays from the U.S. Postal service, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and President Donald Trump's unfounded claims that mail-in voting would lead to voting fraud, voters showed they weren't deterred as they showed up in peak numbers to cast their ballots. Compared to the 2016 election, which saw 138 million Americans cast their ballots in the race between Trump and then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, this year's numbers blew expectations away. While 58.1% of all eligible voters cast their ballots four years ago, experts predicted that more than 150 million voters would show up in 2020, marking the first time the country had had such a high voter turnout, according to The New York Times. As of Nov. 4, projections estimate nearly 160 million voters cast a ballot, according to the U.S. Election Project, out of the University of Florida.
While Pew Research Center noted "We won’t have anything like a definitive assessment of 2020 turnout rates for some time after Nov. 3" as races are still being counted all around the country, there's no denying that this number is largely due to early voting — both in person and by mail.
Prior to Nov. 3, many states began amping up early voting efforts as a way to keep voters safe during the ongoing pandemic. Compared to the 58 million early votes the Associated Press logged as being cast early by mail or in-person in 2016, a Washington Post tracker found that around 102 million Americans had voted early, either by mail or in person, as of Nov. 2. To put that number into perspective, it's nearly three-quarters of the total number of votes cast four years ago, including the in-person, Election Day ballots. According to the U.S. Elections Project, 35.7 million people voted early in person while 63.9 million had cast ballots by mail as of the end of the day on Monday, Nov. 2. As for in-person voting on Election Day, the numbers are still officially unclear.
Due to the record numbers of early voting this year as well as different states' laws for counting ballots, it's likely that it'll be a while before we get a definitive count of exactly how many people voted for this election. However, just judging from the early numbers, it looks like we're in for a historic turnout.