Heavy turnout in early voting shows importance of protecting voting rights

While much of the nation’s attention is focused on November 6, the election has already begun in dozens of states that allow some form of early voting. As the numbers flow in, it’s becoming clear that turnout for early voting is notably higher than in 2008, particularly in key battleground states.

Michael McDonald, a professor at George Mason University, runs the United States Election Project, which tracks data on early voting. Professor McDonald recently posted an early voting status report on Huffington Post. He writes, “Early voting—both mail and in-person—is on pace to exceed 2008 levels, when about 30 percent of all votes nationally were cast prior to Election Day.”

Not every state makes its data available, but a handful of important battleground states do. In Iowa, more than 200,000 people have already voted. With over three weeks remaining in this election, that’s already more than 13 percent of the more than 1.5 million ballots cast in 2008.

In Ohio, more than 175,000 ballots have been cast by mail and in person. Some counties are already showing more than a 50 percent increase in early voting over their 2008 totals. And Professor McDonald notes that these figures are likely to increase dramatically, particularly in urban areas as “the heaviest volume of early voting is yet to come the week before Election Day.”

These results speak for themselves. Voters and many elections officials overwhelmingly support early voting because it’s accessible, reliable, and reduces the burden on Election Day for voters and poll-workers. That’s why, for years, Democrats have doggedly advocated for an expansion of early voting across the country.

The idea that voting should be restricted to a single workday is an anachronism. In 1845, Congress set Election Day on a Tuesday in November so that farmers would have an extra day after the Sabbath to travel to the county seat to vote. Obviously such restrictions don’t make any sense in today’s fast-paced, highly mobile society.

Unfortunately, there are some who would prefer to dial back the expansion of access to the ballot box. And, in its most repugnant form, this backpedaling would disproportionately burden only certain groups of voters. In opposition to these efforts, we have launched targeted legal action to fight back against unconstitutional restrictions on early voting in Ohio, where state officials took the unprecedented step of selectively opening the polling place doors for some voters while closing them to others.

We’re doing all we can between now and Election Day to ensure all qualified voters can fully exercise their franchise. Do your part by voting in this election. No-excuse early voting has already started in Iowa and Ohio. It will soon begin in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Visit now, to learn how, when, and where to cast a ballot in your state.