Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Banking Early Dem Turnout Eliminates Election Night Drama

Daily Kos — An army of early Democratic voters just might kill Trump's chance to sow chaos on election night:

Donald Trump's months-long attacks on mail-in voting and systematic efforts to undermine the Postal Service may have ultimately hurt his chances to sow confusion in the days following the election and erroneously claim victory. It's a beautiful thing when someone as loathsome as Trump shoots themselves in the foot, so let's walk through the mechanics of it.

After months of listening to Trump's baseless charges of voter fraud while his administration simultaneously took a hatchet to the Postal Service, Democratic voters appear to have taken him seriously. Consequently, they have either returned their mail-in ballots at lightning speed or simply resolved their best option was voting early and in-person. Thus, the epic vote lines and wait times we are seeing in states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas.

That has amounted to an enormous number of early votes cast—more than 21 million as of Friday morning, according to the early vote tabulation site, United States Elections Project. That's equivalent to 15.4% of the total votes counted in 2016. In fact, Michael McDonald, the University of Florida political scientist who runs the site, guesses that as many as 40 million Americans may have voted by the end of next week. If that were to happen, that would account for nearly 30% of the 138 million votes cast in 2016.

“This is a completely different election than anything we’ve seen in the past,” McDonald told the Washington Post's Greg Sargent. “The numbers are off the charts,” he said, adding that the vast majority of early votes so far have still been by mail.

But beyond being on target for historic turnout nationwide, it also means that Trump's efforts appear to have backfired. Rather than suppressing voter enthusiasm, Trump has driven it sky-high. Plus, all those early votes will allow many states to get a jump on their vote counting rather than trying to process record numbers primarily on Election Day itself.

“That’s going to help elections officials,” McDonald said.

Quicker processing means it's at least possible that some of the worst-case scenarios about election results being delayed for days or even weeks followed by ensuing chaos could be avoided.

McDonald anticipates that some important battleground states like Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona will be able to process their votes quickly—partly due to their specific voting laws and partly due to the votes coming in so early. All of those states could become decent, and maybe even definitive, indicators of which way the electoral vote count is heading, taking some pressure off the upper Midwest states where vote counting rules will significantly slow tallies. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania all fall into that category.

Additionally, because Democrats have been outpacing Republicans by a 2-to-1 ratio in 42 early voting states, according to an Associated Press analysis, it's Trump who will be playing catch up on election night, not Biden, says McDonald. And that could rob Trump of an opportunity to claim an early victory while the mail-in ballots are still being counted in the Rust Belt states. In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, it's entirely possible that Trump will lead on election night until the mail-in ballots are counted. The election laws in Pennsylvania, for example, prohibit election officials from even starting to count mail-in ballots until the polls open on Election Day. But if, for instance, Florida, Arizona, and/or North Carolina have been called for Biden, that would kneecap Trump.

By and large, Democratic voters appear to have gotten the memo: Vote early, very early, and just maybe we can preempt Trump from having any credible claim to victory on election night. That may not stop him from claiming it anyway, but it will definitely shade the way journalists cover his bogus antics.

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