A sneak peek at the 2020 general election turnout

Just before the November general election, we took a look at the number of Kansas voters who cast their ballots prior to election day, either by mail or at early, in-person voting sites. A staggering 510,000 ballots were mailed to registered voters, and an even more impressive 86% (422,000) of those ballots were returned.  

Now that the election is complete, we want to look at the data to see exactly who voted early and when they voted. To start, it’s important to note that not all of the data from the 2020 general election is currently available. If you’ve been with us for a while, you may remember our blog from last year explaining why the data can be slow to be reported.

But here’s what we know so far about when people voted, who turned out, and where they voted:

WHEN – The charts below show in-person and returned mail-in ballots for four previous elections; 2018 primary, 2018 general, 2020 primary, and 2020 general. At an initial glance we see a large shift in enthusiasm for early voting in both 2020 elections, but an especially large jump in mail-in voting (likely due to COVID-19 precautions and concerns). 

An interesting shift happened during the 2020 general election cycle where we see the largest daily total of early votes cast happening 14 days before the election day. In 2018, the largest daily totals occurred 8-11 days before election day. With more voters requesting mail-in ballots than ever before, many campaigns and organizations shifted tactics to do “ballot chasing” or calling, texting, emailing, and following up with voters to encourage them to return their ballot as soon as possible. We also experienced delays in our postal service for the 2020 general election, and many voters returned ballots early to ensure timely receipt.

WHO – We have previously looked at how different demographic groups have different voting and civic engagement tendencies. Below we break down the 2020 primary and general elections by age. 

As in most election cycles, we see a noticeable jump in voters turning out to vote both by mail and early, in-person for the 2020 general election, particularly voters aged 18-64. In 2020, numerous campaigns and organizations spent time
registering young people to vote, and those efforts showed in the general election turnout data.

WHERE – Another way to assess who voted early in 2020 is by looking at the voter turnout by county. In the chart below we can see major spikes occurring in the 5 most populous counties in Kansas; Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee, and Wyandotte – keeping in mind that not all counties have reported their data. 

So, what do we know from the early voting data for 2020? 

In the 2020 general election, registered Kansas voters turned out in record numbers to early vote. They cast their ballots earlier than in previous cycles. And more people under age 65 took advantage of early voting options, in person and by mail, than ever before. 

COVID-19 has had a large impact on our elections that will last for years to come, particularly with voting by mail. For future elections, candidates, campaigns, and organizations should continue to utilize vote by mail options and encourage young people, in both rural and urban areas, to get their ballots in early.