With COVID-19 numbers rising amid the 2020 election, a total of 3 million individuals have already cast their votes in the state of Illinois. As a nation, more than 96 million people have voted early, with 35 million in-person and 61 million mailed ballots, according to an on-going database from the University of Florida.
These early voters include some Rogers Park residents. More than 7,000 49th Ward — which covers Rogers Park — residents have voted early as of Nov. 1, The Phoenix reported.
Early voting allows voters, either by mail or in-person, to cast their ballots prior to Election Day, depending on one’s home state, according to USA.gov.
John Frendreis, a Loyola political science professor, said each state differs in its designated time period for early voting.
“This can be as short as a week or ten days or as long as three or four weeks depending on the state,” Frendreis said.
However, the most recent election has created a new motive for early voting with a pandemic sweeping the nation. Due to COVID-19, a number of voters have decided to forego the opportunity of in-person voting on Election Day, according to Frendreis.
Loyola political science professor Magda Giurcanu said she believes the pandemic is playing a “huge role” in pushing people to vote early.
“I think that what we’re seeing in terms of voter turnout is in part a response to two issues: one is Donald Trump and the second is the pandemic,” Giurcanu said. “In 2024, the question becomes: are we going to have these two issues in place?”
Early voting has shown to provide certain benefits toward the election process, such as reducing wait times on the official election day, according to Project Vote.
Project Vote is a national, nonpartisan organization which works to “build an electorate that accurately represents the diversity of this nation’s citizenry, and to ensure that every eligible citizen can register, vote, and cast a ballot that counts.”
Along with reducing wait times, early voting is also a “generally positive thing” because it helps increase the country’s voter turnout by making voting simpler, according to Frendreis.
Along with its overall benefits, the early voting process has also been seen to have different impacts on each political party, Giurcanu said.
“We see a huge percentage of Democrats [early] voting, and not such a high percentage of Republicans,” Giurcanu said. “On Election Day, Trump expects to have a ‘red day’ because Republicans will go and vote in person.”
Early voting in 2020 has greatly exceeded any past voter turnout. As of Nov. 2, early voters have cast 70 percent of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election, according to the University of Florida database.
With this high percentage of total votes, early voting turnout in 2020 will be seen as historical, according to Giurcanu.
“People talk about historical and outstanding, if you read the news on this issue you’re going to find that type of description,” Giurcanu said. “Early voting in a way helped us vote in this pandemic and was very successful.”