Rhea Wunsch holds up an "I'm voting by mail" sticker

2020 Election: A Historical Voter Turnout

With a lot of uncertainty during election week, one thing is for sure – voter turnout is at an all-time high. At least 160 million Americans voted in the 2020 election, the largest number of voters in a U.S. presidential election in history. Biden is climbing the popular vote with more than 80 million more votes than any president has ever received.

Over 100 million Americans casted their votes early this year, only shy of 36 million more votes that were casted in 2016. Mail-in and early person voting were consistently popular across the United States this election year, mainly due to COVID-19.

Past elections have shown trends of a lower voter turnout. According to a study done by Pew Research, the U.S. has some of the worst voter turnout rates in the world, ranking 30 out of 35.

In the 2000 election between George Bush and Al Gore, only 110 million people voted, making the voter turnout around 55%. Of that 110 million, only 18 million people from the ages of 18-29 voted in that election.

Besides having some of the worst voter turnout rates, young people consistently vote at a lower degree compared to other age groups.

In the case of the historic 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain, voter turnout had soared to new heights not previously seen. It was the most racially and ethnically diverse electorate in U.S. history, with an increase in both the number of and turnout rates of eligible minority voters. With 131 million people voting and a turnout of about 58%. Young voters were higher in this election than in pasts, with roughly 18% of young adults voting.

However, voter turnout decreased once again during the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. With only 137 million Americans voting and a turnout of 56%, slightly higher than the 2000 election. While young voters made up 19% of the electorate, at least 8% of them had voted for a third-party candidate.

The voter turnout during the 2020 election reached around 66.7%, the highest it’s been in 120 years. What’s even more inspiring is that 53% – 55% of registered 18 to 29 year-olds voted.

“That may be the highest ever recorded in the modern era of politics,” Simon Rosenburg, the founder of New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute, told CNBC.

Gen Z, who are currently between the ages of 8 and 23, proved to be Biden’s success in certain key states like Georgia and Pennsylvania. At least 65% of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted for Biden- 11% more than other age groups.

A host of issues pushed young voters to the polls; police reform, systematic racism, climate change, COVID-19, and the economy.

Zulaikha Marouf, a college student at Chabot, voted for the first time in the 2020 presidential election.

Issues ranging from climate change, police reform and funding for public education, were some of the driving factors that led Marouf to the polls.

“I voted more against Donald Trump than I did for Joe Biden. I wasn’t really that excited about Biden, he seemed like every other politician in the past,” Marouf said.

Biden’s Green New Deal particularly excited Marouf, “I’m a big believer in climate change, and the environment is really important to me. We need some form of affirmative action against climate change.”

A poll conducted by Change Research in early October found that youth voters were much more enthusiastic about voting after hearing about Biden’s climate plan; an estimate of 41% of voters.

In Georgia, a state that had not voted Democratic in almost 30 years, an estimated 21% of the votes came from young people, who supported Biden over Trump by 18%, gaining Biden 187,000 votes, according to CIRCLE.

Young Black voters played a crucial role in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to help President-elect Joe Biden in securing key-swing states. Black youth supported Biden by a wide margin of 90% in Georgia, and 86% nationwide. Young people of color favored Biden significantly more than young white voters.

2020 saw an increase in voter accessibility, from same-day registration, voting by mail and early voting. All of which were able to increase voter turnout substantially, especially for young voters and voters of color.

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