Americans, motivated by either fear, excitement or partisanship, have flocked to early voting sites and mailed ballots back across the country, casting nearly 46 million votes as of Tuesday.
Turnout in the midterm election — the halfway point in a president’s four-year term — is historically much lower than in a presidential election year. In 2018, however, early turnout was unusually high by Election Day and mid-term turnout was record-breaking. This year’s cycle appears to be following a similar path.
The panache among voters ahead of Tuesday’s election underscores the changing landscape of American politics, which has been fueled by a pandemic that has upended traditional voting methods and uncertainty about the state of democracy caused by the former president’s inaccurate claims Trump was fed over a stolen 2020 election.
In California, voting by mail has been popular with some groups, particularly older voters, for years.
The pandemic prompted several states in 2020 to introduce universal voting or change their laws to allow early voting or voting by mail for the first time, said Paul Gronke, professor of political science and director of the Elections and Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland, Ore.
Gronke posits that America “will see significantly higher levels of early voting at least in the next few election cycles, if not permanently.” It also means the results are likely to be released more slowly than many Americans expect, he said.
How does early voting work?
It depends where you live. In 46 states and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter can cast their ballot before Election Day. Some states are sending out ballots that voters can mail back, and others are setting up places for people to vote in person before Election Day.
In 2021, California took steps to significantly expand postal voting. The move was prompted in part by a large turnout in 2020, when the state mailed ballots to more than 22 million people stuck at home because of the pandemic.
However, voters who prefer to go to the polls on election day can still do so.
Will there be a blue wave or a red wave on November 8th?
No one really knows, and election experts are wary of drawing any conclusions.
With more voters casting their ballots early and more Democrats voting by mail, it could look like there’s a Democratic spike in early results and maybe a few days after.
At the same time, many Republicans who mailed their ballots in past elections are now choosing to vote in person. Much will depend on how they fare on Election Day, experts say.
Basically, you can grab your surfboard, but we won’t know the hue of a wave for a while.
What can Early Voting tell us?
It’s a way of measuring interest in an election. Spoiler alert: people seem interested so far.
In California, through public records, it is possible to see the age and political party of everyone who cast an early vote. About 5.1 million mail-in ballots had been returned in California as of late Monday, according to election data reviewed by consulting firm Political Data Intelligence.
About 51% were elected by Democrats, 28% by Republicans, and 21% by independent voters or members of other parties.
Almost half of the votes cast came from voters who are at least 65 years old. Voters aged 50 to 64 cast 27% of the early ballots cast and those aged 35 to 49 accounted for 14%. The youngest block of voters, aged 18 to 34, accounted for just 11% of ballots cast to date, according to Tracker.
How do officials process absentee ballots?
Generally, the first step is to compare the signature on the return envelope with the signature on file so the voter can confirm the match. Workers in a safe room then flatten the ballot so it can be fed into a machine. But before that happens, workers examine it to make sure there are no stray marks and the machines can read it.
The timing of this process varies between states. Thirty-eight states, including California, allow election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots — but not counting them — before Election Day.
When will we find out who won?
It depends on the breed. The first results in California will be released around 8 p.m. Tuesday, but some races can take days to announce a winner.
In California, statewide races can take longer simply because there are so many votes to count and because the state counts all ballots mailed out by Election Day as long as they are received within the following week. Election officials have 30 days to complete the count and certify the results in accordance with state law.
The majority of states, including California, begin counting ballots to get results on election day before polling stations close.
But 16 states and Washington, DC won’t allow workers to count mail-in ballots until all in-person voting is complete. Those states — Washington, Alaska, New Mexico, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia — could see slower results because of this, election experts say.
Ten states — Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, Delaware, Kansas and Montana — allow workers to start counting before Election Day.
“In states like Arizona, we’re probably going to have pretty solid results on election night,” Gronke said, adding that that won’t be the case in many other states. “It’s going to make it particularly difficult this year as results come in at different speeds, and it’ll open a window for people to charge wrongdoing.”
Still, he added, just because vote counting takes longer doesn’t mean something’s wrong.
Is there anything I can do to find out the results?
Probably not, unless you have future visions or a DeLorean that you’ve fitted with a flux capacitor to allow time travel.
If that’s the case, grab Doc Brown and let’s talk.
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-11-08/early-voting-is-lagging-in-this-midterm-election-but-its-unclear-what-it-means-for-tuesday 2022 midterm collects 46 million ballots with early voting