WASHINGTON (UPI) — More than 35 million people cast an early vote or absentee vote for the 2018 elections, an increase of more than 58 percent from 2014, preliminary data indicates.
The midterm elections are seeing an unusually high number of early voters — early voting in 27 states alone total more than totaled early votes nationwide for 2014 — which likely means a historic boost to overall voter turnout for 2018.
Midterm elections have historically low turnout numbers, rarely reaching above 50 percent of eligible voters. Presidential election years typically draw more voters.
“In the last three decades, we’ve had about 40 percent of those eligible to vote participating in midterm elections. If we get in the upper end of that range, if we can beat the 1966 49 percent turnout rate, you’d have to go all the way back to 1914 to get a turnout rate above 50 percent,” Michael McDonald, a University of Florida associate professor who heads the Election Project, told CBS News.
He predicts there could be between a 45 percent and 50 percent voter turnout factoring in both early voting and Election Day totals. In 2014, the United States had its lowest voter turnout since 1942 with 36.4 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot. Turnout was 59 percent in 2018 when President Donald Trump was elected.
Some states have seen sharp increases in early voting and absentee votes, most featuring highly competitive races that could influence control of Congress.
In Tennessee, where Rep. Marsha Blackburn is seeking to keep retiring Sen. Bob Corker‘s seat red in a tight race against Gov. Phil Bredesen, there’s been a 282 percent increase in early voting, data analytics firm TargetSmart indicate. There was a 148 percent increase in early voting in the Texas battle between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
In Georgia, a hotly contested race for governor between Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, and Stacey Abrams could be behind a 122 percent boost in early voting.
There has been a boost among young voters, too, with a 663 percent increase in early voting for people ages 18 to 29 in Tennessee, 462 percent in Texas and 362 percent in Georgia. The increasing interest of younger voters has Democrats banking on a so-called “blue wave” to take key seats from Republicans.