Early Voting Numbers Soar as Midterms Approach

'We’ve never seen anything like this'

October 29, 2018

With more than a week to go before Election Day, four states have already surpassed their total early voting numbers for the last midterm elections. Delaware, Indiana, Minnesota, and Tennessee have already received more early ballots than for all of 2014 early voting, according to data by compiled by a respected researcher and reported by Reuters. 

Voters in six additional states — North Carolina, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, and Nevada — have cast at least twice as many ballots compared to this point in 2014. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, who compiled the figures. McDonald predicted that turnout in nearly every state would ultimately outstrip 2014.

The data offers additional evidence that early voting, which has expanded in recent years, is extremely popular with voters, because it makes the voting process more accessible and convenient.

We Need to Expand Early Voting Opportunities — and Defend Against Rollback Attempts 

Early voting laws differ significantly between and even within states. According to a Brennan Center study, the Election Day benefits of early in-person voting include both shorter lines and reduced overall stress on the voting system. In addition, the extended voting period allows poll workers to gain experience before Election Day, which made them more efficient in their work. This extended period also creates time to discover and fix registration errors and technical glitches leading up to Election Day. Finally, early voting is extremely popular with voters themselves, according to voter satisfaction surveys. It provides increased access and flexibility for voters who may face Election Day hurdles such as work schedules, commutes, or bad weather. 

Despite these benefits, there are significant efforts underway to reduce early in-person voting. Another Brennan Center study found that since 2010, at least seven states have actively attempted to reduce the early voting period in this cycle. These cutbacks risk disproportionately hurting communities of color and other marginalized groups that have less control over their schedules.

It’s encouraging to see the rise in early voting numbers in 2018 so far. But we have to work to ensure more states provide it as in option — and oppose efforts to roll it back for no good reason.

(Image: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)