Thirty-Six Million Early Votes Shatter Records for Youth and People of Color

Millions of voters head to the polls today for a midterm election that’s widely seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, with both houses of Congress and 36 governor’s races in the balance. In fact, millions have already voted: A record 36 million Americans voted early this year, with participation high among young people and people of color. That’s up from 27 million four years ago, leading many to predict a record turnout for a midterm election. “If you look at the numbers, early voting is shattering records among young people, among people of color,” says Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones. “We’re seeing a lot more people that typically sit out midterm elections going and showing up because they believe these races are so important.”

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Millions of voters head to the polls today for a midterm election that’s widely seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, with both houses of Congress and 36 governor’s races in the balance. In fact, millions have already voted. A record 36 million Americans voted early this year, with participation high among young people and people of color — record numbers. That’s up from 27 million four years ago, leading many to predict a record turnout for this midterm election today.

This comes as Politico is reporting glitches with voting machines in Texas and Georgia have caused some votes for Democrats to be switched for the Republican candidate or deleted. Experts have said the error is a technical malfunction. Voters and civil rights groups in Texas and Georgia have filed complaints in what are two of the most closely watched states this midterm election.

For more, we’re joined by Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, reporting fellow at The Nation Institute, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.

So, I want to talk to you about where you were yesterday, at that census trial, which might include a question about citizenship. But I want to start with this day, Tuesday. Now, Election Day, for many — for example, in New York, we don’t have early voting. Yes, absentee, but not early voting. In many places, there’s early voting, and we’ve never seen anything like this: 36 million people have early voted. Talk about the significance of this, Ari.

ARI BERMAN: Well, happy Election Day, Amy. And yes, we do get to vote in New York today, unfortunately, only on a Tuesday. So, this election is drawing a historic amount of interest. There are so many important races, not just in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but governor’s races, down-ballot races, races for state legislature, races for secretary of state, races for state attorneys general. These are really critical races for democracy.

And what you’re seeing is, in spite of all the voter suppression efforts, that you’ve covered on this show and that I’ve reported on, people are going out in record numbers. They are waiting on 2- to 3-hour lines in Georgia and Texas and Florida to cast a ballot. Voting should not be as difficult as it is in this country, but it’s heartening to see so many people get out and participate anyway, in spite of the barriers they’re facing.

AMY GOODMAN: And this 36 million, it’s believed many of them are young people. And the significance of this is that all of the polls talk about likely voters, which are people who have voted before. You have Beto O’Rourke in Texas, for example, who spent a lot of time on college campuses. A lot of the old-time pundits on all the networks are saying, “Doesn’t he understand these people aren’t going to vote? That why he’s going to lose,” they say. On the other hand, maybe he has tapped into something absolutely critical. This could clearly take him over the top.

ARI BERMAN: Well, if you look at the numbers, early voting is shattering records among young people, among people of color. Early voting is up 200, 300, 400 percent among young voters in places like Florida and Texas and Georgia compared to 2014. So, usually a lot of people sit out midterm elections. And it’s still true that even if we have record turnout, half of Americans aren’t going to participate in this midterm election. But we’re seeing a lot more young people. We’re seeing a lot more voters of color. We’re seeing a lot more people that typically sometimes sit out midterm elections going and showing up because they believe these races are so important.

AMY GOODMAN: But you have focused so much on, as has Carol Anderson — and both of you will be participating in our 6-hour broadcast tonight. Folks can check it out at democracynow.org from 7:00 Eastern time to 1:00 in the morning. We’re joining up with The Intercept for a joint historic broadcast, covering all the results and ballot initiatives. But you and Carol Anderson have particularly focused on voter suppression. So talk about how you see that playing in. We read this report that, you know, some people who are voting early, they’re finding there are glitches in the voting machines. Others feel maybe they can’t vote at all, when they actually could.

ARI BERMAN: Well, we see that 24 states have passed new restrictions on voting since the 2010 election, things like stricter voter ID laws or cutbacks to early voting or new barriers to voter registration. This affects millions of voters. And we are seeing, quite frankly, Amy, an avalanche of voter suppression in this election. In Georgia, in North Dakota, in Kansas, in Texas, in really important swing states — many of them red states — that have competitive races for the first time, we are seeing so many efforts by Republicans to try to prevent people from voting, whether it’s a voter ID law in North Dakota that could keep Native Americans from the polls, or whether it’s Georgia making false voter fraud accusations or preventing people from registering, or voting machine changing results in Texas, or ex-felons being disenfranchised in Florida. It’s not one state. Nearly half the states in the country have passed new efforts to make it harder to vote. I hope this election is not tainted by voter suppression. I hope people get out in record numbers. But it’s very concerning that all across the country we are seeing these suppression efforts.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Native Americans, particularly in North Dakota, the significance of this? But also talk about how this, actually, interestingly, this attempt to suppress the vote, may have galvanized even more people to get out there and vote.

ARI BERMAN: Well, we could be seeing a backlash to voter suppression in places like North Dakota and Georgia, because what the courts did and what the Republican Legislature in North Dakota did is they put in place a new voter ID law that basically doesn’t allow Native Americans to use their tribal IDs to vote, because they have to have a residential street address, which they don’t have because they live on rural reservations, where there are no street addresses. So now the tribes in North Dakota are on this frantic effort, days before the election, printing out IDs that people can use. And they’ve printed these IDs in record numbers. The printers are actually blowing up because they’re printing so many tribal IDs. That’s the hopeful thing. What we don’t know is if North Dakota will accept those documents at the polls. The secretary of state of North Dakota has been noncommittal. So, it’s encouraging —

AMY GOODMAN: Is the secretary of state Republican or Democrat?

ARI BERMAN: Secretary of state is Republican. He was the architect of this voter ID law. It’s encouraging to see so much interest in getting people the IDs, but it shouldn’t be this difficult to vote, particularly for the most historically disenfranchised community in this country, who was here well before we were.