Biden or Trump? Who benefits from the record-breaking early voting?

The Washington Post via Getty Images

A voter votes early Monday, October 5 in Davenport, Iowa. . (Photo by Daniel Acker for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – This is a first. Never have American voters embraced early voting so much. In the clash between Donald and Joe Biden, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, nearly 10.2 million Americans have already made their choice and have already voted, either by mail or by surrendering directly at a polling station. About thirty states allow their citizens to make their voices heard in advance, over a period of up to 50 days before the election date.

By comparison, in 2016, only 75,000 people voted a month before election day.

This craze before the fateful date of November 3 is obviously partly explained by the coronavirus epidemic which is still raging in the United States. Voting by mail or in advance means in part avoiding the large crowds on D-Day and therefore less exposure to Covid-10. In fact, many states have changed their legislation since the spring to expand postal voting or early voting to take into account the health context. Nevada, for example, has extended the deadline for which a ballot is deemed admissible.

Polarization and craze

But for Michael McDonald, professor at the University of Florida, and head of the US Elections project, these relaxations as well as the health context are not enough to explain such enthusiasm. According to him, this is a real demand from the voters.

He takes this as proof that, in some states, this surge in early voting has already greatly inflated general participation. In South Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, more than 20% of people who voted in 2016 have already cast their ballots for 2020.

This massive phenomenon also responds to the polarization of American society around two camps, details Michael McDonald for Reuters: “People vote when they are decided, and we know that many people made up their minds a long time ago and already have a decision. opinion on Trump ”, he explains. In this game, the specialist estimates that participation could reach 150 million Americans, or 65% of registered voters, never seen since 1908. Guarantee that this is not at all excluded, the mid-elections. mandate of 2018 already showed a record participation since 1978.

Can Biden really rejoice?

On paper, early voting seems more favorable to Joe Biden than to Donald Trump. In the New York Times, the director of TargetSmart, a company focused on data analytics for Democrats, praised their strong lead in early voting. In a study based on 1.1 million people who have already submitted their ballot, he estimated that Joe Biden was already 18 points ahead of Donald Trump.

A surprise that is not really one. In some states, the affiliation of voters to a particular party is known, and therefore taken into account in requests to receive ballots by mail. The NBC infographic below clearly shows that more Democratic Party-affiliated voters applied to vote by mail and more returned their ballots as well.

NBC screenshot

Postal ballot requested and returned according to membership of the Democratic or Republican party (figures as of October 12)

Faced with these figures, some want to believe that Joe Biden is simply starting his reserve of votes of November 3 with a little advance. A theory that Michael McDonald does not really subscribe to. In the blog affiliated with his project, the professor indicates that this phenomenon of “cannibalization” will play little in the end if the turnout is high: “In any case, these are voters who would have voted on November 3”.

On the other hand, the political scientist points to the age of the cautious. Many of the ballots cast were from people aged 66 and over. “I predict that, in the coming weeks, Democratic storytelling will shift from euphoria over broad early voting trends to worry that a disproportionate number of young voters have yet to return their ballots. postal vote ”, he notes. Also, unlike ballots filed in person, those sent in advance are more likely to be spoiled.

Trump on the floor?

Unsurprisingly, fewer Republican voters flock to their ballots ahead of November 3. A behavior that also responds to the harangues of Donald Trump himself. The president has been saying for many months now that postal voting will be synonymous with massive fraud and a rigged election.

In any case, this is the scenario favored by the party authorities. In USA TodayRepublican National Committee national press secretary Mandi Merritt argues that Republican voters “are very motivated by their enthusiasm for President Trump and are going to vote. Many simply prefer to vote in person, either early or on polling day ”. This is not enough to alleviate one of the important fears on the right of the American political spectrum: faced with the risk of an epidemic resumption at the end of the month, the oldest voters, who more broadly support the Republican Party, may not come. to the ballot box.

Stakes which also end up having a financial impact on the organization of the campaign. While Joe Biden is now able to invest to precisely target voters who are favorable to him and who have not yet voted, Donald Trump does not have this luxury.

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