2020 Election Records Highest Voter Turnout in Over Half a Century


Photo courtesy of Manny Becerra on Unsplash.com

Sarah Khan, Staff Writer

The 2020 election recorded the highest voter turnout in over a century, with over 65% of the eligible voting-age population participating in the election. These numbers surpassed the voter turnout for the record-breaking 2008 election in which 61.6% of the eligible voters voted.

The total number of people who voted in this election was 153 million people, an all-time high. This voter turnout resulted in Joe Biden winning the election with nearly 80 million votes, the highest number of popular votes a winning candidate has ever received in American history. Despite the fact that President Trump lost, he too tallied over 73 million votes, the highest number of votes someone who has lost the presidential race has ever received.

In recent elections, President Trump won the 2016 election with around 66 million popular votes, and Obama won the 2008 election with around 70 million votes, indicating a trend of increasing voter turnout during the past few years which reached a new peak with the 2020 presidential election.

Experts have studied the tensions and dynamics within the country and have hypothesized many reasons to explain this sudden increase in voter turnout, one of which is the current polarizing political atmosphere in the United States. Trump’s term in office provoked many strong opinions about the president, both negative and positive. Many election experts believe that the passion Americans possessed for this topic was responsible for driving many people who usually wouldn’t vote to the polls.

Additionally, many states expanded the time and ways in which their citizens could vote. This meant that people who normally had little time to visit polling locations in person were able to submit mail-in ballots ahead of time. Because several states were more flexible with the time within which the ballots could be received, ballots that usually would have been delivered late and disqualified were now included in the final tally.

The impact of mail-in ballots could be seen in the states of Montana and Vermont, where turnout rose by 10 and 9 percent, respectively, after many changes were made to mail-in voting rules. Texas allowed for extra time to cast early ballots, resulting in a 9 percent increase in voter turnout. In Hawaii, voter participation increased by 14 percent, the largest state turnout increase this election.

Battleground states also had unusually high turnouts, mainly due to Democrats attempting to mobilize new voters in traditionally Republican regions, such as Arizona, Texas, and Georgia. Many of these efforts resulted in extremely narrow margins within some states, with decimal percentages differentiating the winning and losing candidates.

The high voter turnout this presidential election was not a single anomaly. There has been an upwards trend in voter turnout in the past few years. In fact, the 2018 midterm elections had their highest voter turnout since 1912. The trends in voter turnout will continue to help gauge the nation’s attitude towards politics and the people in power.