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Analysis

Early Voting Numbers Soar as Midterms Approach

Early voting surpassing the early voting of years prior. This system can make the voting process more accessible and convenient.

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)