New York: The US appears to be on track to see over 160 million votes cast in the 2020 presidential election, a turnout rate of about 67 per cent, which is higher than the country has witnessed in more than a century, as President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden campaigned through the final day to get more voters to the polling booths.
Voting across the nation was largely smooth as voters lined up early in the morning across polling stations in the country to cast their ballots in one of the most consequential and polarised elections in US history that took place in the shadow of a devastating coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic as well as a strong drive among Americans to have their voices heard on the ballot box resulted in a record 101 million early votes cast in person and by mail before the polls even opened on Election Day.
The New York Times reported that the 2020 presidential campaign was shaping up to be one for the record books, on pace to attract the highest turnout in more than a century.
The NYT quoted University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who compiles data from across the nation, as saying that America appeared to be on track to see roughly 160 million total votes cast. “That would mean a turnout rate of about 67 per cent of the eligible voting population — higher than the United States has seen in more than a century,” the NYT said, adding that the last time the turnout was more than 65 per cent was 1908, according to the United States Elections Project.
“The huge turnout appeared to be spurred by the momentous issues that have upended the lives of nearly every American, including the surging coronavirus outbreak and the struggling economy, the political passions of the Trump era, and the steps that many states took this year to make voting easier and safer during the pandemic,” the NYT report said.
The NYT reported that at least six states — Texas, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Montana — recorded more votes in early voting than they did during the whole 2016 election. Several battleground states, including Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, were nearing their 2016 totals.
Throughout the day, Trump and Biden were on the road to continue to meet with party workers and exhorting voters to turn up at the polling stations to cast their ballots.
Trump, visiting his campaign headquarters in Virginia, was asked by reporters if he had prepared victory or concession speeches ahead of the election results. The president said he was “not thinking about (a) concession speech or acceptance speech yet. Winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me, it is not”.
During the day, Trump tweeted: “Get out & VOTE! Under my Administration, our ECONOMY is growing at the fastest rate EVER at 33.1%. Next year will be the GREATEST ECONOMIC YEAR in American History!”
Biden too strongly urged voters to make their votes count, saying if they had not voted early, they should vote on Tuesday and stay in line as long as it takes. “Our democracy is at stake,” he said.
“Folks, time is running out to make your voice heard in this election…Every moment of the last four years comes down to today.”
In another tweet, he said: “This is our moment to prove that: Love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. Today is your absolute last chance to vote in this election.”
Former US president Barack Obama said in a tweet, “This Election Day, everything is on the line. Our jobs. Our health care. Whether or not we get this pandemic under control. But here’s the good news: today, you can choose change. You can elect” Biden and Kamala Harris. “Let’s win this thing.”
Harris tweeted: “This is our time. Let’s use our vote, our power, to choose the America we can be — and the future our children and grandchildren deserve,” and said in another tweet: “Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to speak out. Now is the time to vote. Your voice is your power — don’t let anyone take it away.”
Harris also said what Trump fears the most is not Biden or her but “the power of the people”. She said Biden “knows that no matter where we come from or where we live, no matter our race or gender, background or faith, no matter how we identify or who we love, no matter the language your grandmother speaks — what we have in common is so much stronger than what divides us”.
The NYT said in a report that Republican voters were more likely to vote on Election Day, while Democrats were more likely to vote early, especially by mail. Democrats have also historically voted in higher numbers in the evening, after work. “Precincts in predominantly white, Hispanic and Black neighbourhoods showed only a trickle of voters, suggesting most people had voted early, either by mail or in person,” it said.
According to voter data analysed by the Collective PAC, which is dedicated to electing Black lawmakers, Black voters were on pace to greatly surpass turnout during the presidential election in 2016. Quentin James, the founder of the PAC, said more than 616,000 Black people had already cast ballots in Texas — more than the 582,000 who had voted in 2016 — and that the turnout of Black voters in Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona was on pace to easily overtake the 2016 levels, the NYT report said.