What We Can and Cannot Tell from Early Voting

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Friday, October 30, 2020
early voting sign in a doorway

An early voting sign in a doorway.

What We Can Tell from Early Voting

The country is seeing record turnout for early voting, as well as some late legal challenges around when — and if — all those votes get counted. Almost 70 million people have already cast their ballots, with Election Day still a week away. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here

  • The 70 million early voters represent around half the total votes cast for all presidential candidates in 2016. This suggests total votes for presidential candidates may far surpass 2016 voting numbers.
  • Some states such as Texas have already seen voting numbers equal to 90% or more of the total votes cast in the state in 2016.
  • Across many battleground states, more Democrats than Republicans are taking advantage of early voting, especially vote by mail. Republicans are expected to make up the gap in many states on Election Day. This difference in voting method by party may result in skewed early voting counts in some states, and winners of given states may not be announced for days after Election Day.

 

 

Early Voting Discussion Questions:

Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

    • Who is voting early this year in record numbers?
    • What is the difference between election day voting, early voting and vote by mail?
    • When and where have early voting records been set?
    • Why would it be significant if the percent of eligible voters that actually vote is as high as it’s been in over a century?
    • How will voters learn who won the election in case of a close race?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Early Voting Focus Questions:

  1. Do you think early voting should be expanded from state to state? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think it’s important that the winner of the presidential race be announced on Election Day? Why or why not?

Media Literacy: Why do you think so many media outlets are interested in closely tracking polls and early ballots, even if they don’t provide certainty about actual election outcomes?

Dig Deeper: Many experts have noted that this presidential election may be contested long after Election Day itself. There is a good chance states may not have a complete and accurate count of votes by November 3, partly due to record turnouts, record vote by mail and new COVID-19 precautions. President Trump and others have already suggested they will challenge counts of ballots after Election Day. But what would a contested election look like? Use this lesson to explore how previous contested elections shaped history, including the contest of 2000.

 

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

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