Presidential election breaks 120-year-old record for voter turnout


Photo used with permission from Google Commons

Joe Biden, the winner of the 2020 presidential election, makes a speech to some of his 78 million supporters.

The presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has been historic in a number of ways. Due to COVID-19, many votes have been cast by mail, resulting in delayed counting of votes and delayed results. However, COVID-19 is not the only historic factor in this election. Voter turnout is currently on track to breaking century-old records.

As of November 5, voter turnout has already surpassed that of 2016. More significantly, 2020’s voter turnout is on track to beating 1960’s 60-year old record, and could even break 1900’s 120-year old record as the highest turnout in American history, when 73.7 percent of eligible voters voted.

Factors such as the intense polarization of both political parties and the COVID-19 pandemic have been credited with causing this year’s record-breaking voter turnout. U.S. History and law teacher Alexander Parker said, “There are a couple factors, such as the accessibility of voting registration because of social media and major corporations. The combination of tech access and voter initiatives that major companies and teams are using helped make it more accessible for people to register to vote. On top of that, this is an election with very heavy polarization and a lot of passion on both sides: Biden is going to have the record number of votes ever. Some people were fearful that the pandemic would hurt voter turnout, but many people were successful with absentee and mail-in voting in a year where they would not have been able to vote. When you combine all of these different factors, that’s where we’re getting the turnout that we have today.”

Focusing on the divided nature of the country over the past four years and its culmination during this election, AP US History teacher Kraig Bauer said,“[High turnout is] because of how divided things are in this country and the divisive manner in which Trump has run things. Rather than being presidential, he acts unprofessionally. And not to be political, but he’s handled the coronavirus poorly too, saying things like ‘I’m tired of the coronavirus.’ When you have two charged-up groups that are exceptionally concerned about the country, that’s why we have so many people voting. Biden has about 77 million votes, and Trump has 72 million, indicating the divisive nature of the population. Also, mail-in voting was pressed and stressed so much that it may have made it easier for people to vote who don’t have easy access to places to vote.”

The Coronavirus and its impact on voting should not be overlooked. Mail-in ballots are also considered to have had a boosting impact on the accessibility of voting for citizens who previously couldn’t, or wouldn’t vote. Junior Ted Otengo said, “I think this year’s increase in voter turnout is primarily because many states allowed mail-in ballots and more people voted since they didn’t have to stay in long lines and instead could just vote from home.”