Decision 2020: A look at what trends can impact voter turnout

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 2:19 PM EDT
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CENTRAL, Va. (WWBT) - More than 200 thousand Americans are dead because of COVID-19, racial tensions are high, millions are out of work and there’s an election around the corner. Both candidates are touting it as the most important election in modern history. Regardless of party, the reality is, there’s a lot at stake.

Kristin Richardson is choosing to take advantage of the no excuse in-person absentee voting option.

“What can we control right now? This is the one thing we can control that would make such a big difference,” said Richardson.

In presidential elections since 2004, about 70% of registered Virginians will cast a ballot.

If those numbers hold true, with 5.8 million people and counting, registered before the Oct. 13 deadline, we will set another record.

With more than 4 million voters, many won’t stand in line this year because of COVID and absentee mail-in ballot requests are through the roof. More than 915 thousand ballots have already been requested - a state record.

NBC12 political analyst, Deirdre Condit makes an interesting point about voting on election day.

“One of the key fears that people have had is that they will get infected at the polling sites, which is spurring early voting and absentee voting and that is a good thing," said Condit. "But so far most of the research is showing that it’s no more dangerous to go vote in person than any other activities that people are engaging in, in the state of Virginia under phase three.”

She also knows that based on the economic crisis of 2008, unemployment can impact an election.

“Whether they lost faith in the system or voting hadn’t turned into something for them that helped them, we had a lot of people abandon voting after the economic crash,” said Condit.

This past April, during the thick of the pandemic, the DMV, state fair, and other large gatherings often used to register new voters were shut down.

“New voter registration makes up a pretty significant component of the electorate each election, but particularly in presidential elections and there have been no voter registration drives,” said Condit.

Through the partial reopening of the DMV and various websites, registration numbers are rebounding, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Condit says high voter turnout should play well for Biden.

But the most recent poll from the Wasson Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University shows Biden with only a 5 percent lead.

Experts believe the appointment of a 6th conservative Supreme Court Justice, after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, could energize the Republican base.

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