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Record set: More Americans than ever voted in 2020, highest turnout rate in more than a century
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Record set: More Americans than ever voted in 2020, highest turnout rate in more than a century

And the margins are razor thin

Although the presidential election remains too close to call, one thing was made clear on Election Day: More Americans turned out to vote than ever before.

In fact, this election saw the highest percentage of voter turnout since 1900. That's a remarkable feat considering a much higher percentage of the American populace can now vote, due in part to the 19th Amendment, 24th Amendment, and 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

By raw voter turnout, nearly 138 million votes for president had been cast by 2 p.m. on the afternoon after Election Day. That number will continue to inch upward as precincts across the country tally their final vote totals.

What are the percentages?

According to the U.S. Elections Project, nearly 160 million votes will have been cast when the final votes are certified weeks from now. The Elections Project estimates there are 239 million eligible voters in the U.S. — meaning, when all is said and done, about 66.8% of the voting-eligible population will have voted.

That's the highest rate since 1900 when 73.7% of the voting-eligible population turned out to vote for then-President William McKinley (R) and Democratic challenger William Jennings Bryant.

By comparison, only about 13.5 million people voted for president in 1900.

If the final tally of voters is, in fact, near 160 million, this year will have marked the highest raw voter turnout in U.S. history.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Biden has already surpassed 70 million votes, meaning he has won more votes in a single presidential election than any other candidate in U.S. history. Barack Obama held the previous record of 69,498,516, which he won in the 2008 presidential election.

As CNBC noted, this year's massive voter turnout was bolstered by record early voting and mail-in voting.

From CNBC:

The record voter turnout in 2020 was buoyed by more than 100 million ballots cast during the early voting period, according to data from the NBC News Decision Desk and TargetSmart, an analytics firm. The number of ballots cast in 2020 by mail or in person before Election Day more than doubled that of 2016.

Overall, Democrats had an early vote advantage heading into Election Day with 43% of early or absentee votes compared with Republicans' 37%. While more Democrats than Republicans voted early by mail, more GOP voters cast ballots early in person than Democrats.

The highest ever U.S. voter turnout rate for a presidential election came in 1876, when 82.6% of the voting-eligible population participated in the election, selecting Republican Rutherford Hayes over Democrat Samuel Tilden. But that high percentage only amounted to about 8.3 million votes.

What states had the highest turnout rates?

Minnesota and New Hampshire, two states that could have been in play, will have seen voter turnout in excess of 80% when the final votes are tallied, according to the Election's Project. Biden won both states.

Meanwhile, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Tennessee, and West Virginia will have experienced less than 60% turnout. None of those states were in play; President Donald Trump won four of them, while Biden won just one.

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