With the US election just weeks away, votes have been flooding in via post. The pandemic and coronavirus fears — particularly given the shockingly poor way the US government has handled the issue — has led to people voting by mail in far greater numbers than any other year.
Currently over 25 million Americans have already cast their votes which is over four times higher than in 2016. 25 states have also expanded their mail-in voting systems and capabilities which has also contributed to the unprecedented tsunami of ballots.
Here’s what’s really interesting: ballots are overwhelmingly being returned in favour of the Democrats.
What does this mean for the election?
Early tallying of the vote is broadly in alignment with the polling which currently shows Joe Biden at around a 10% lead against the incumbent Donald Trump. Now, you may think that this early lead would suggest a landslide for Biden but actually it’s a little more complicated than that.
The truth is, Democrat voters appear far more likely to request a mail-in ballot and to return their mail-in ballots. Republicans, on the other hand, appear much more likely to vote in person on the day. So although we are seeing a strong margin for the Democrats, it’s likely this will balance out come election day.
However, while this early swing doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats will hold that majority, it does mean they have those votes locked in. Once a vote has been cast, it can’t be taken back. That means early votes going to the Democrats can’t be swayed by whatever happens over the next few weeks. People intending to vote Republican on the day still have time to be persuaded otherwise so there is a chance for Democrats to earn their vote.
Overall, this is a very positive sign for Democrats.
Why Trump Hates Mail-in
All of the above gives us some reasonable ideas as to why Donald Trump has spent the past few months and weeks systematically attacking and undermining the mail-in voting system. In the first televised debate on September 30th against his opponent, Trump spent a good amount of time spouting off unfounded claims of voter fraud via mail-in and has sent dozens of tweets decrying what he sees as a fake election.
The Republicans know that Democrat voters this year will be using the mail-in system more than their own and so it makes sense for them to attempt to delegitimize that means of voting. Ironically, most years the mail in system is used by military service people overseas who vote in absentia, the vast majority of which vote Republican.
The efforts of Trump and the Republican party to undermine the mail-in voting system has caused some to question whether or not the current administration will accept the results of the election in November. Due to the number of mail-in ballots and the difficulties in counting ballots in a socially distanced fashion, it’s unlikely that we will know the true results of the election for some time, potentially several weeks. As the mail-in will take longer to count, the initial tally could suggest a Republican win which may then have to be amended. Uncertainties such as this could cause big problems for the perceived legitimacy of the election.
Ultimately, it would be foolish to think the early voter tally means the Democrats will win the election. There is still a strong possibility that Trump could defy expectations, just like in 2016, and return to the White House in January. The polling and the tally result do however give us some clues as to what might happen come election day.