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Growing Numbers of Voters in Three Swing States Plan to Vote Early

(Photo / Steven Rosenfeld)

President Trump’s continuing efforts to undermine the voting process, election administrators and public confidence are not undermining Americans’ determination to vote in the 2020 fall election. But they are reshaping some voters’ plans on how and where to cast their ballots.

Those takeaways come from the cross tabs in a recent Fox News/Associated Press poll taken in the 2020 battleground states of Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin and is a counterpoint to Trump’s latest attack on the voting process. After months of attacking mailed-out ballot voting as fraud-ridden—it’s not and appointing a Postmaster General whose orders have undermined delivery in battleground states, Trump is now telling people to vote twice “to test” the system. (In addition to voting twice being illegal, voting by mail and at a poll will cause Election Day congestion and increase vote count workloads, which would catch any double voting.)

The Fox/AP poll, taken August 29-to-September 1, found that overwhelming majorities of voters in both parties in these states said that they were determined to vote, regardless of COVID-19. Across most demographic categories, 80 percent or more said they would vote. In Arizona, where most voters cast absentee ballots, the figure was closer to 90 percent. In Wisconsin, it was slightly lower. In North Carolina, it was 80 percent. The least committed voters in these states were under age 45 and “urban,” meaning non-whites.

The poll’s cross tabs also featured questions that have rarely, if ever, been asked by national pollsters: how and when do different demographic segments intend to cast their ballots. (See the last questions asked). While the poll was taken before Trump started to tell voters to cast multiple ballots, it showed that large numbers were not just intending to vote in person, but many are looking to do so at early in-person voting sites. In other words, voters are making plans to vote and are taking steps to boost their confidence that their votes will count.

Consider the three swing states:

• In Arizona, 7 percent of voters said they intended to vote in person at an early voting center, while 54 percent said that they would drop off their mailed-out ballot at those sites. Only 24 percent said that they intended to vote in person at an Election Day precinct. Eleven percent said they’d return an absentee ballot on Election Day—which is not allowed in the state. (In that case, the voter would be asked to fill out another ballot—a provisional—to be validated afterward before being counted. That response shows more voter education is needed.)

• In Wisconsin, which has had Election Day registration for decades and does not have a history of voting by mail like Arizona, 51 percent of voters said that they intended to vote in person on Election Day. Ten percent said they would vote early in person. Another 30 percent said they’d return their absentee ballot to an early voting location. Another 6 percent said that they would return their absentee ballot on Election Day. (That Election Day option is allowed in smaller jurisdictions, but Wisconsin’s larger cities do not allow that; they want those ballots delivered to absentee ballot counting centers. Again, some local voter education is needed.)

• Most intriguing were the poll results from North Carolina. The state allows voters to drop off their absentee ballots at early voting sites but not at Election Day precincts. (New voters can also register at these early sites and vote). Thirty-three percent said that they intended to vote early and in-person. Another 15 percent said they intended to drop off their absentee ballots at the early voting sites. Another 39 percent said that they intended to vote in-person on Election Day. And 7 percent said that they intended to return their absentee ballot on Election Day. (That option isn’t allowed at the polls, but is allowed at county election offices.)

But in North Carolina, you can apply and get your ballot, and drop it off early. That scenario, as the Fox/AP poll suggests, seems to be emerging in response to Trump’s attacks on the voting process. In some ways, it is the best of both worlds: voting from home and confident delivery bypassing Trump’s disinformation.

Incidentally, North Carolina starts mailing out absentee ballots earlier than any other state (September 3). Residents applying for a fall ballot now will get it soon. They can then decide how to return it and make sure that local election officials accept it. Perhaps that backdrop increasing voters’ confidence is why Trump first told people to vote twice—by mail and in person—in North Carolina on September 3rd.