2020 US ELECTION

US Election 2020: how many people have voted so far compared to all elections before?

The across the US there has been record turnout in the 2020 presidential election but in the past more eligible voters cast ballots than generally do today.

US Election 2020: how many people have voted so far compared to all elections before?
CARLOS BARRIA REUTERS

With over a 141 million votes tabulated so far in the 2020 US presidential election and millions more to go this year’s turnout is one of the highest. Current forecasts predict that perhaps over 158 million people voted which would make this the election with the highest turnout of eligible voters since 1900.

In America’s infancy only the few could vote and decide who would govern as the vote was limited in many places to property-owning white men and not many did. George Washington was re-elected with only 6.3 percent of eligible voters turning up to cast a ballot in 1792. The percentage of eligible voters who exercised their right was quite low for first four decades with 1812 an incredible high of 40 percent.

Greater suffrage more voters casting ballots

It wasn’t until 1828 when voting took off. In this year suffrage was granted to non-property-owning white men and the percentage of eligible voters rose above 50 percent. By 1840 over 70 percent of eligible voters were going to the polls to elect their President. The numbers stayed high between 70 and 80 percent of the eligible populous voting in presidential election years.

Source: US Elections Project

These were years of great contention as the country was expanding westward and the issue of slavery brought the country to decide it in a civil war. With the passing of the 15th Amendment in 1870 black men were given the right to vote and for a brief time the number of people voting rose even more.

Voting hits its high

However, the 1876 election was the all-time high water mark where Samuel Tilden a Democrat lost to Rutherford Hayes the Republican even though Tilden had received more of the popular vote and electoral votes but was one vote shy of the presidency. After some horse trading, Hayes became President but in exchange for pulling Union troops out of the ex-Confederate States. This was the start of Jim Crow and suppressing of the newly freed slaves' vote.

1900 was the last time over 70 percent of the US electorate went to the polls. The number of people voting as a percentage of the total population increased dramatically after 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. Since then, the amount of people voting has gone up and down usually staying between 50 and 60 percent.

US presidential election popular vote totals as a percentage of the total US population by CircleAdrian-CC BY-SA 3.0

More recent high points in voter participation

In 1960 voting saw a peak at 63.8 percent with the election of John F Kenndey the first Catholic President. Through the 1970s and 80s voting decreased but always stayed above 50 percent. In the 1990s voting began to increase again with the most recent peak in 2008 at 61.6 percent when the US elected Barak Obama the first African-American to hold the highest office.

If the predictions are right then this year will be the highest turnout of eligible voters since 1900. Although the count isn’t expected to overtop 70 percent it will be an impressive 66.4 percent that came out to vote for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.