The 2020 presidential election is on track for record-breaking turnout with the COVID-19 pandemic spurring many to cast their ballots early to avoid crowds on Election Day.
The coronavirus pandemic, which dominated the 2020 campaign and polarized America down party lines, did not deter voters who cast an estimated 157 votes and elected Democrat Joe Biden 46th President of the United States.
Hoping to avoid Election Day crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, more than 100 million Americans submitted ballots during early voting this year, a record-breaking number. The sharp increase in mail-in and early in-person voting paved the way for the highest turnout in 120 years.
The final 2020 turnout figure will not be known until after all the votes are counted, but Edison research estimates it is around 66.9%, the highest since 1900. That easily beats turnout four years ago, which was 60.1%. Since women won the right to vote in 1920, the turnout record was set in 1960, when 63.8% of eligible voters elected John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon.
Projected turnout | Percentage of the voting-eligible population that cast ballots
This year’s election was held amid a pandemic that had killed more than 234,000 Americans and left millions more out of work. Concern about the virus caused a surge in voting by mail, with the laborious counting delaying results in some states by days.
What was the turnout in states that flipped?
The race continued into the week after the election as a handful of states counted votes. The tense outcome came down to millions of absentee ballots that were the first cast and are often the last to be counted.
While Trump hoped to repeat his 2016 victory in many of these states, Democrats were favored in the mail-in votes left to be counted, which flipped some of these states from red to blue.
Going blue | Turnout in states that voted ● Trump into office in 2016 and flipped to support ● Biden in 2020
Note: Does not include Nebraska which splits 5 electoral college votes. In 2016 all 5 votes went to Trump, in 2020 there will be 1 for Biden.
The election also decides which party controls the U.S. Congress for the next two years. Democrats were looking to flip Senate seats and hold off Republicans in the House of Representatives to gain control.
Which states drove 2020 turnout?
In every state and the District of Columbia at least half of eligible voters cast ballots for the 2020 election. Texas had an estimated 61% turnout with 1.3 more voters compared to the 2016 presidential election. Minnesota had a whopping 81% estimated turnout up from an impressive 74% in 2016. The number of votes in Arizona are estimated to be up % since 2016.
Climbing to the polls | Turnout across all 50 states and the District of Columbia
Won in 2020 by ● Republicans ● Democrats ● Yet to be called
Hawaii had the lowest turnout with an estimated 55% in 2020 even with the projected more votes in 2020 than in the 2016 election. All 50 states and D.C. had a projected increase in the number of voters. Mississippi had the slightest increase with an estimated more votes in 2020.
To capture the White House, a candidate must win at least 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College. How many electoral votes each state receives is based largely on that state’s population.
What was the turnout in battleground states?
In the weeks running up to election day, President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden made last-ditch efforts for votes in battleground states, hoping to secure a quick win on election night.
But it wasn’t to be. Days after polls shut, votes were still being counted in a handful of battleground states that eventually decided Biden’s victory.
In some of these swing states the results were delayed due to large numbers of absentee ballots, but it is projected that turnout in 10 of the battleground states was above the national average.
Swing states | Turnout in states where both candidates were strongly campaigning for votes
Biden had a strong lead over Trump in the national popular vote, but that plays no role in deciding the eventual winner. Trump lost the popular vote by about 3 million to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 but won crucial battleground states to take the White House in an upset victory.
While Democrats largely embraced early voting, a large number of Trump’s Republican supporters turned up in person to vote on Election Day after Trump showed distrust, without evidence, of mail-in voting.
Three days after the election, clarity came through when Biden won 20 Electoral College votes from battleground state Pennsylvania on the strength of mail-in ballots that were cast in urban Democratic strongholds.
Note: Due to a request for a recount in Wisconsin, which is legally allowed when the margin is within 1 percentage point, Edison Research has made the decision to not call the state’s race for Joe Biden. The five major U.S. TV networks have all called the Wisconsin race, so our graphics reflect this.
Sources: Edison Research for the National Election Pool; United States Election Project; Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Elections; The American Presidency Project
By Prasanta Kumar Dutta, Michael Ovaska and Jitesh Chowdhury
Illustrations by Samuel Granados
Edited by Jon McClure and Peter Graff