Unlike Australia, voting in the US is not compulsory.
This generally sees a much lower turnout for US midterm elections than the higher profile presidential elections that take place every four years.
But not so this year…
More than 30 million Americans have cast early ballots ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, eclipsing the 2014 early totals nationally and suggesting a high overall turnout for contests that could define the final two years of US President Donald Trump’s term.
At least 28 states have surpassed their 2014 early votes. And perhaps even more indicative of the unusual enthusiasm this midterm cycle, some states are approaching their early turnout from the 2016 presidential election.
Here’s a look at some highlights:
The 30.6 million ballots includes data from 48 states, with several of those still collecting absentee ballots and welcoming in-person early voters. The total early vote in 2014 was 28.3 million in an election where more than 83 million Americans voted. That was a low turnout (about 36%) even by usual standards of a midterm, when there’s an expected drop off from presidential elections.
Forecasters aren’t predicting that overall turnout this year will hit 2016 levels (137.5 million; more than 60% of the electorate), but Democratic and Republican analysts, along with independent political scientists, say turnout could approach 50%, levels not seen for a midterm since the turbulent 1960s.
BOOMS IN STATES NOT USED TO EXCITING MIDTERMS
It’s one thing to see Virginia more than doubling its 2014 early turnout. Voters there showed their intensity last year in their governor’s race, with record absentee ballot requests and returns and a solid turnout for both parties.
But then there’s Tennessee. The state has settled firmly into Republican-dominated territory. In 2014, there wasn’t a single statewide race that received national attention or a truly competitive House election.
DEMOCRATS EDGING REPUBLICANS NATIONALLY
In states that require party registration, Democrats have cast 41% of the early ballots, compared to 36% for Republicans. Party strategists on both sides say they are far exceeding their usual numbers in key locales — urban strongholds for Democrats and more rural counties for Republicans.
A word of caution from prognosticators: The party analysis isn’t always an indicator of final outcomes. There are crossover voters, even in this hyperpartisan era. And there are independents and third-party voters, as well. For the record, those latter groups account for about 23% of the ballots in party registration states.
YOUNG VOTERS IN FLORIDA
Trends in Florida’s early voting suggest a surge in young voters, a group that historically has low turnout in midterm cycles.
Of the 124,000 Floridians aged 18–29 who had voted in person at early polling stations as of Thursday, nearly a third did not vote in the presidential election in 2016, according to analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. About half of those new voters were newly registered.
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The Australian Tribune with AP