Researchers are predicting record numbers of voters for next year’s White House general election, and political organizations are figuring out what to do with this gift of information.
Each of the major political parties is hoping that their candidates will benefit from the anticipated spike. While Democrats usually benefit from higher voter turnout, however, political experts are saying Republicans will likely see some advantage, too, this time around. Everyone seems to be glued to the presidential election, even though it’s well more than a year away, they said.
“So far, if you look at voter enthusiasm and engagement measures, we see that everybody’s enthusiasm and interest level seems to be high,” said Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and codirector of the States of Change study of the American electorate.
“Before 2018, the differential was in the Democrats’ favor,” Teixeira told Fortune. “Now, we’re seeing that there’s high interest in both sides. That could be significant.”
States of Change is one of the efforts predicting huge turnout in 2020. A coalition of the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution produced the report.
Others also are predicting voluminous turnout.
“2020 will see the turnout storm of the century...participation levels not seen in more than 100 years,” Michael McDonald, associate professor at the University of Florida and head of the United States Election Project, said via Twitter.
According to project, an effort spearheaded by McDonald and the University of Florida, 50.3% of the voting-eligible population cast ballots in the 2018 midterm election compared with 36.7% in the 2014 midterms. The data prompted McDonald to tweet, “First time since 1914 the U.S. has broken 50% in a midterm election.”
And Rock the Vote, a nonprofit aimed at raising the numbers of people casting ballots, has seen a 60% rise in the number of people registering online on all of its platforms between the first six and a half months of 2015, compared to the first six and a half months of this year, spokesman Andrew Feldman said. In terms of hard numbers, the organization's platforms generated 36,589 registered voters in 2015 through mid-July, compared with 54,424 this year so far, according to Feldman
While more than 20 high-profile Democratic candidates battle it out for a chance to unseat President Trump, voters tied to both major parties are clearly paying attention. Between the last presidential election in 2016 and the midterm elections in 2018, turnout numbers remained high even though there typically is less interest in off-year elections.
Catalist, a firm that studies voting practices, predicts that 156 million people will cast ballots in 2020, a major rise from the 139 million that voted in 2016. The Democratic firm based its prediction on studies of the midterm elections last year.
“The composition of the 2018 electorate resembled recent presidential electorates much more than recent midterms,” Yair Ghitza, Catalist’s chief scientist, wrote on Medium.
Rock the Vote, a nonprofit committed to getting people registered to vote and to the point where they’re casting ballots, says that with the higher turnout already apparent, the organization will continue with its mission to drill down and focus its efforts on getting people of color and younger people—who are typically underrepresented—to cast ballots and also continue to educate people on how to vote, particularly in this age of multiple options, from early voting to absentee voting. The organization has a program that brings voter education into the high schools, and they plan on relaunching it for this election cycle in mid September.
“It can be confusing for first-time voters and young voters to figure out how the process actually works,” Feldman told Fortune. “A lot of what we’re doing right now is making sure that young people are educated in how to actually cast their ballot.”
He added, “Each state has different deadlines, different rules: Do you have early voting? Can you vote absentee?”
In its outreach to black voters and voters of color, the key for Rock the Vote will be to educate voters about their rights—particularly with so many allegations of voter suppression rampant, Feldman said.
The organization also is trying to meet people in the places where they are most comfortable communicating and is getting its message out via social media, as well as encouraging people to have conversations with their peers, Feldman said.
For Republicans, white, non-college-educated voters will be critical for them to see a victory, political experts said. The GOP likely will be pushing to see that this demographic makes up a large part of the turnout spike, according to Teixeira.
Democrats will likely try to take advantage of this group’s move away from Trump, but Republicans will act on the predictions too, the political analyst said.
“The Trump campaign will be doing everything possible to amp up and turbocharge white, non-college turnout, particularly in rural areas,” he said.
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