TAMPA, Fla. - Ballots are still being counted across the country, and voter turnout is in record territory, projected to be the highest in living memory.
President-elect Joe Biden has already tallied the most votes cast for a presidential candidate in United States history with more than 75 million.
President Donald Trump sits in the number two spot with more than 71 million votes. Both men breaking the record previously set by President Barrack Obama in 2008 with more than 69 million votes.
“All voters from both sides really surged,” said UCF Political Science Professor, Aubrey Jewett.
He says it is estimated about 66% of all eligible voters turned out this election. Voter participation was especially high in many battleground states, including Florida.
“That’s one thing that tends to drive turnout is if people think it’s gonna be close and if they think their votes might matter,” Jewett said. “And despite the pre-election polls this time around suggesting that Biden had a lead, I don’t think that either side was comfortable with that.”
Even in the midst of a pandemic, American voters came out in unprecedented numbers to make their voices heard.
“The more people vote, the more Democracy you have in the system. But there’s also arguments to be made, that the more people who vote it’s an indicator of a political crisis situation, that something is so disturbing the voters of America that people who normally don’t vote are coming out to vote,” said USF St. Pete Emeritus Professor of Government, Darryl Paulson.
Political experts believe that crisis for some voters is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For others, it’s President Trump.
“He has inspired immense loyalty and mobilized Republican voters like nobody I have ever seen before, but he’s also inspired and mobilized Democrats,” Jewett said.
He says President Trump’s controversial leadership, and polarizing personality was a driving force on both sides of the aisle.
“If you look at exit polls the vast majority of Republicans said that they were turning out to support Donald Trump, because they really liked Donald trump, I mean like more than 80%,” said Jewett. “But if you look at Biden voters, a strong majority of them said they were turning out to vote against Trump, not because they like Joe Biden.”
Other top issues that influenced voters at the ballot box was the economy, race relations, and the summer protests over police violence that erupted across the nation.
“That’s maybe one of the reasons Donald Trump ends up losing Georgia, is because of that surge in turnout and certainly some of that was based on the Black Lives Matter movement,” Jewett said.
Experts say mail-in ballots and early voting increased turnout, by making the process easier and more accessible to a greater amount of Americans.