Voters came out in historic numbers across the United States for the 2020 general election.
In 2016, almost 139 million individuals cast a ballot, with around 9 million of those votes coming from Texas. This year, it’s possible that over 160 million individuals cast their ballot during the election period, according to the U.S. Elections Project. In Texas alone, early voting numbers surpassed the total voting turnout in the 2016 presidential election, according to The Texas Tribune.
Assistant professor of political science Ben Ogden said two factors determine whether people vote: how much they care about the election and the costs of voting. However, Odgen said voters of both parties have prioritized this election.
“The distinctions between the two parties are starker than they’ve ever been,” Ogden said. “Regardless of which side you’re on, people, when asked, tend to state that this election is the most important election of their lifetime, or one of the most important elections in a long time.”
Brittany Perry, instructional assistant professor of political science, said there are many factors contributing to why people feel this election is important.
“Because of the pandemic, our attention was more focused on political issues, especially surrounding identity-based issues and racial justice, for example, over the summer,” Perry said. “These are very motivating events for people that have lost their job or feel economic stress. Because there’s such a divide between the two parties … that’s what makes the stakes feel really high as well.”
In most elections, voter turnout is not this high, and Perry said there are multiple reasons eligible voters might choose not to vote.
“People generally don’t pay all that much attention to politics, and there is a lot on the ballot, usually,” Perry said. “There are a lot of steps depending on where you live to actually be eligible to vote and to cast your vote.”
Ogden said individuals’ other priorities may also be a factor in low voter turnout.
“Historically, you also would see low turnout because of the fact that people had other things that they needed to do,” Ogden said. “If you’re somebody who has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet or have no control over your own work schedule, it becomes a lot more difficult to find the time to vote.”
Among those who found time to vote were students like nutrition senior Logan LeGard, who said he voted due to his personal beliefs.
“I voted because I believe in the equality of all people,” LeGard said. “I believe in science, and I want to protect the environment. I want to see a change and improvement in the police system. I believe that the wealthiest people in America should contribute more to taxes, and I believe in providing more healthcare to more people.”
Telecommunication media studies freshman Dianne Word said she voted because she believes the U.S. needs a leader who will acknowledge current issues and work to solve them.
“This is me participating and showing that I care about my country,” Word said. “I want the world to be a good place to live in, and this is the way to do it.”