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Early voteout continues to break records, as high voter enthusiasm meets the realities of the frequent machinery of U.S. democracy in the midst of a pandemic. That means long lines in some areas, administrative errors with some mail ballots, but a system that works generally according to experts.
“Despite some of those concerns, things are going to get to this point, which makes sense,” said former Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who specifically spoke about expanding voting by mail.
More than 26 million people voted by Saturday, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a turnout tracking database run by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald. This is more than six times the number of votes delivered by the same point in 2016.
While there are more than two weeks before Election Day, here are some picks from the votes that have already been cast.
Democrats have power
Polling data has indicated for months that Democrats allocated voting earlier at higher rates than Republicans, responding to President Trump’s near-always false falsification of postal voting. will lead to widespread fraud.
We are now getting evidence from the actual voting behavior that confirms the polls.
Democrats cast nearly 53% of the vote early, according to predictable data firm TargetSmart that uses voter data beyond party registration on project turnout trends, compared with 36 % of Republicans.
Early voters tend to grow as well. Voters over the age of 50 make up more than 70% of the vote according to the TargetSmart poll. Hundreds of thousands more young people voted at this point in October, compared to the 2016 election, but they still make up a lower proportion of the overall total than before.
Interestingly, African-American voters make up a larger proportion of early voters than in 2016. More than six times more African-American voters voted earlier than the same point in the last presidential election , according to Targetsmart review.
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Loss of confidence
President Trump’s rhetoric has also affected how people feel about the election process as Election Day approaches.
Overall, the proportion of registered voters who say the U.S. election will be fair this year has dropped significantly over the past two years, from 81% in October of 2018 to 62% this year, according to a newly released Pew Research poll.
That rejection is being driven by Trump supporters, half of whom are now saying they do not think the election will be fair. More than half also say that they think the empty ballots cannot be counted correctly.
Those trends are worrying voting experts, who say relying on the nuts and bolts of an election mechanic is key to results being accepted as legitimate.
“If significant sections of the public do not believe that the outcome of our election is legitimate, then you literally have a divided country,” said Eddie Perez, an election expert at the OSET Institute. “I don’t mean that in rhetoric. You literally have a divided country where the question of having a peaceful transfer of power is really a concern.”
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Long lines, tech problems in some precincts
As early voting began in states like Georgia and Texas last week, long lines quickly formed in some polling places with some voters waiting in line for hours before falling.
Computer issues play a big role in delays, according to officials.
In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the registration database used to check people for early voting was bogged down by excessive traffic.
“If you look at the amount of information just flowing, it’s like everyone jumping on I-285 in the morning, and sometimes you have to walk the rush hour,” he said, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting Stephen Fowler. “Our vendors are doing that along with our staff to make sure we look at some other optimizations and we should do that by the end of this week.”
In Fort Bend County, Texas, a check-in machine glitch closed at least four precincts there.
“I, honestly, I think this is some kind of voter restraint,” a voter named Renee said what Elizabeth Trovall told the Public Public Media in Houston, after waiting in line to vote for about four hours. . “There is no way there should be a glitch on the first day of early voting. No … I have never seen anything like this.”
Election officials and experts warn throughout the summer that some personal voting locations could be hit by longer lines this fall, as jurisdictions need to merge polling stations and recruit more workers at the polls.
Another factor: social distance efforts can make even shorter lines seem longer.
But lines have become the nationwide exception in general, not the rule. And there is also hope in the hope that the precincts that have struggled with the lines will begin to see them easily as the early voting continues.
For example, Gwinnett County, Ga., Reported a long wait earlier this week in a number of precincts, but on Friday afternoon, the county’s online waiting tracker showed no longer waiting. than 90 minutes.
“A lot of people are enthusiastic about participating in this election,” Perez said. “And there should be a lot of bottlenecks for people to get there right away and get their vote. The volumes you see on the first day of early voting may be less over time.”
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More mail, more problems
States are rapidly stepping up their postal voting efforts to deliver the 40% of voters who now say they intend to vote that way.
But with an increase in usage, there also came a corresponding increase in administrative errors. Reports end up seemingly every day another group of ballots appearing to voters with some sort of mistake.
Last week, Allegheny County, Penn. announced that the company in charge of printing and mailing the ballots mistakenly sent nearly 29,000 voters wrong ballots. Last month, similar clerical issues affected the mail ballots of thousands of voters in Ohio and New York.
“With just over three weeks to go, we need to make sure our election system is one that voters can trust,” Allegheny County Elections manager Dave Voye said Wednesday, as WESA reported. Lucy Perkins. “This is a failure on behalf of our contractor and is affecting too many voters.”
The county has added a search function to its website so voters can check if they are one of those affected, and it will also send all voters new ballots.
Stroman, the former deputy postmaster general, who is now an old fellow in the Democracy Fund, said it was important to remember that on all these occasions, officials caught their mistakes with enough time to fix them. . Officials also have precautions in place to ensure no one votes twice.
“I think up to this point, what we are seeing are almost normal mistakes, exacerbated by a global pandemic,” Stroman said.
President Trump demanded that these kinds of problems be used as evidence that the entire postal voting system was flawed or deceptive in some way.
But these kinds of issues happen every election, says Kathleen Hale, an election management expert at Auburn University, and they are not the sign of anything bad or damaged.
“A significant part of the process is carried out by people,” Hale said. “And they’re not perfect.”