The lines are long but Americans – particularly African Americans – have demonstrated a will to vote despite the obstacles.
On Oct. 22, the U.S. reached 100 percent of the total of 2016 early voting. Four days later, more than 60 million people had already voted with just over a week remaining before Election Day.
Experts predict as many as 165 million votes will be cast in the 2020 election including a massive African American turnout.
“If we get 154 million votes, then President Donald Trump will be looking at the most resounding defeat of an incumbent president in at least 40 years,” wrote Jonathan V. Last, the editor of political website The Bulwark.
“The only open question is the magnitude of Trump’s coming loss. But one thing is not in doubt: when America wakes up on Nov. 4, Joe Biden will have earned more votes than any man who’s ever run for president.”
Axios found that younger people are turning out in larger numbers this year with the youth vote potentially the highest since 2008 during the election that resulted in Barack Obama becoming the nation’s first Black president.
Still, the wave of voters in places like Texas, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana illustrate both the resiliency and resolve of African Americans. Many have gone to great lengths to overcome voter suppression, discouragement, misinformation, gerrymandering and a host of other obstacles to exercise their right to vote as U.S. citizens.
In Fort Bend County, Texas, a check-in machine glitch shut down at least four precincts while a court ruling significantly limited the number of ballot locations. Still, African Americans willingly traveled long distances and endured discouragingly-long wait times to vote.
In Georgia, NPR reported that the clogged polling locations in metro Atlanta reflected an underlying pattern: the number of places to vote has shrunk statewide, with little recourse.
“Although the reduction in polling places has taken place across racial lines, it has primarily caused long lines in nonwhite neighborhoods where voter registration has surged, and more residents cast ballots in person on Election Day. The pruning of polling places started long before the pandemic, which has discouraged people from voting in person,” the report noted.
In Virginia, a glitch shut down polls and forced officials to extend deadlines for early voting.
General Registrar Donna Patterson told reporters that the long lines in Virginia Beach had been like that each day since early voting began about one month ago.
Adding to that amount 55,000 mail-in ballots which the registrar had received to that point, Patterson noted that the state might record the highest voter turnout ever.
About 163,000 votes would be cast in person across the state on the most recent Saturday in North Carolina. Notably, the 828,456 people who’ve participated in early voting in the Tar Heel State counts as double the number of those who voted at the same juncture during the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, “Texas has been under siege confronting voter suppression from multiple fronts from our Governor Greg Abbott to the state higher courts,” noted Sonny Messiah Jiles, publisher and CEO of The Houston Defender Media Group.
“It is unbelievable or ridiculous for a county with 2.4 million registered voters to have one location to drop off mail-in ballots,” Jiles remarked.
“Despite their efforts, the Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, a smart, young millennial, has been strategic and innovative with drive-thru voting, doubling the early voting locations and the historical move of 24-hour voting. But aside from voting access, we need to beware not to be bamboozled listening to the polls and go and vote as if our life depends on it because it does,” Jiles said.
Numerous voter suppression tactics have been used in Texas and throughout the nation, added Patrick Washington, CEO and co-publisher of The Dallas Weekly.
“[Consider] the late-night ruling, from a 5th Circuit Court via a three-judge panel, all of whom were appointed by President Trump to uphold Governor Abbot’s mandate to limit one ballot drop box for millions of voters in Dallas County,” Washington observed.
“Despite this deliberate, detrimental move, the night before early voting in Texas, I am pleased to see that the very voters that may have been affected came to the polls big. I witnessed many volunteers at the Martin Luther King Center, assisting the elderly with remaining comfortable with chairs and water during the long wait and assisting first-time voters by explaining the sample ballots. To know that ballot records are being broken in counties all over Texas doesn’t shock me. Unfortunately, many tragic events due to racism and police brutality have occurred during Trump’s time in office.”
“People are tired. People can’t see family and friends like they used to. In some cases, people are unemployed, angry, scared or maybe all of the above. So, in any case, people have the time to exercise their civic duty and vote,” Washington said.
Even in states like Indiana, voter suppression efforts haven’t stopped Black people from lining up at the polls.
“Indiana has some incredibly restrictive voter laws and currently we only have one early voting site in all of Indianapolis,” stated Robert Shegog, CEO at the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper and Indiana Minority Business Magazine
“A few more [opened] Oct. 24 but significantly more are needed given the size of the city. However, it is very refreshing to see so many people voting early. This has been a trend in Indianapolis for over 10 years now and the numbers keep increasing,” Shegog noted.
The Indianapolis Recorder reported that 13,206 votes had been cast through the first nine days of early voting – nearly 10,000 more than during the same period in 2008 and 5,000 more than in 2016.
Early voting in Marion County started on Oct. 6 and continues through Nov. 2. In 2016, 33 percent of the 362,372 voters in Marion County voted early – a record-breaking number.
This year, Indiana voters expect to break the record again.
“When one considers the pandemic and the physical and mental effects it has had on so many Hoosiers, the tough voting laws, only one early voting site in a city that is nearly 400 square miles – even the immense pressure that Blacks experience daily – the fact that so many people are voting early demonstrates their desire to have their voices heard and their votes counted,” Shegog said.
“I am incredibly proud of the numbers and local experts are optimistic that they will continue to increase through Nov. 3,” he added.