With high voter interest and a global pandemic, 2020 was a high point for mail ballots, early voting, and policies like same day voter registration that gave voters more and better choices to register and vote, helping fuel record voter turnout.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

For the first time ever, more people voted with mail ballots or early in-person than filled out a ballot at the polls on Election Day

  • 70% of voters voted with a mail ballot or early in-person vs 30% of voters who voted in person on Election Day.
  • A record 111 million voted with either a mail ballot or early in-person, more than double the number who voted in person on Election Day.
  • 28 States changed their policy to make it easier to use a mail ballot.

National voter turnout at 67% of eligible voters was the highest in 120 years                                                                        

  • It set the modern record for turnout since 1900 and the expansion of the electorate with women’s suffrage, the Voting Rights Act, and lowering the voting age to 18.
  • All 50 states increased their turnout over 2016.

Despite the record national turnout, there are still wide differences in voter turnout between states that make it easier or harder to vote                      

  • Turnout in the top 10 states averaged 17 percentage points higher than the bottom 10
  • All of the top 10 turnout states either sent all their voters a mail ballot, have Same Day Registration that allows voters to register or update their registration when they vote, or both.
  • Eight of the bottom 10 turnout states cut off voter registration four weeks before the election or required an excuse to use a mail ballot.

States that sent mail ballots to all voters had an advantage in turnout

  • In the top 10 states for their voter turnout, half were states that proactively mailed ballots to all registered voters (a.k.a Vote at Home States)
  • In the top 10 states for increase in voter turnout over 2016, six mailed ballots to all voters for the first time in a presidential election.

States with Same Day Registration also saw a big turnout advantage

  • Eight of the top 10 voter turnout states had Same Day Registration.
  • States with Same Day Registration had an average turnout five percentage points higher than states that did not.
  • With eight more states adding Same Day Registration since 2016, this was a landmark year for the growth in the number of states adopting this time-tested policy.
  • Nearly half of all states now offer Same Day Voter Registration.
  • Despite nearly doubling the number of states with Same Day Registration since 2016, we still see a consistent turnout advantage of at least five points higher than states without it.

Competition and the Electoral College impact the state turnout

  • Competition is a big driver of voter turnout. When it comes to the presidential race, the Electoral College divides the country into battleground (competitive) and non-battleground states.
  • Voter turnout in the 36 non-battleground states was four percentage points lower than that of the battleground states. All but one of the bottom 10 states in turnout were non-battleground states.
  • The two major candidates made 98% of their limited campaign visits to these 14 battleground states and gave the bulk of their campaign money to these 14 battleground states.