Presidential Elections

USA Election 2020: how many people are voting by mail? 

Mail-in voting has been a contentious issue during the 2020 presidential election with more Americans than ever before expected to utilise the postal vote system.

USA Election 2020: how many people are voting by mail?
JOE RAEDLE AFP

Current president Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden go to the polls on 3 November in the 2020 presidential election, and for a number of reasons mail-in voting has been a more contentious than ever issue during the the campaign with more Americans than ever before expected to utilise the postal vote system. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that voters may wish to avoid polling stations and many states have broadened the criteria for people to receive mail-in ballots.

How many voters will utilise mail-in ballots?

Data compiled by Professor Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project has revealed that a total of 66,322,813 mail-in ballots have already been requested, with some states yet to report their data. That figure includes around 20 million California residents who have all been sent a vote-by mail ballot for the 2020 General Election, the first state to do so.

In 2016 nearly a quarter (33 million) of all votes were cast using mail-in ballots but that figure is expected to be far higher this election. Analysis by the New York Times has found that around 75% of all American voters will be able to receive a mail-in ballot ahead of this year’s presidential election.

Trends from recent elections suggest that a record-breaking 80 million postal votes could be cast in the 2020 presidential election.

How will postal voting affect the 2020 presidential election?

Mail-in ballots were a key talking point of the recent presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, with the President making a number of unsubstantiated claims about the possibility of voter fraud.

In the debate televised live on Tuesday evening, Trump claimed: “As far as the ballots are concerned, it's a disaster”. The president later added: "It's a rigged election."

The surge in postal voting could benefit Joe Biden as far more registered Democrats have requested mail-in ballots than Republicans. Members of the Democratic Party account for 44.1% of the total ballots requested, as opposed to the 25.7% going to registered Republicans.

Trump lawyers’ federal lawsuit against mail-in voting thrown out

The President’s re-election campaign has been so eager to prevent the expansion of mail-in voting across the country that it has made legal challenges in a number of states. In Montana, the Democratic Governor Steve Bullock passed legislation allowing all the state’s counties to switch to an essentially all-mail voting system for the upcoming election. In response the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit arguing that the decision would increase the risk of voter fraud.

However District Judge Dana Christensen ruled against the request and accused the Trump campaign of spreading “fiction” about the dangers of mail-in voting. Christensen wrote of her verdict: “Central to some of the [Trump campaign's] claims is the contention that the upcoming election, both nationally and in Montana, will fall prey to widespread voter fraud. The evidence suggests, however, that this allegation, specifically in Montana, is a fiction.”