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SPLC Analysis: Young Voters Are Not Returning Absentee Ballots as Fast as Other Groups

National analysis finds voters under 30 across 42 states are lagging behind

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) finds that as voters across the country begin to cast their ballots for the 2020 General Election, voters under 30 across 42 states have requested ballots at comparable rate to their share of total registered voters, but they are not returning them at the same level as other groups.

As of October 14 in states that publish absentee and early vote data, voters aged 18 to 29 make up 17.2% of all registered voters and 16.4% of ballots requested. However, that number drops considerably for ballots cast so far, where voters aged 18 to 29 make up just 7.0% of mail ballots and 7.8% of early in-person votes. 

Another alarming finding of the report shows that, so far, first time voter are not meeting their proportion of ballots returned. Although they make up 12.4% of ballots requested nationally, just 4.5% of mail ballots cast so far have been by new voters.  

“As voters begin to vote absentee and early in historic numbers during unprecedented times, we are tracking trends in real time that both worry, but also inspire us,” said Seth Levi, Chief Strategy Officer for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “While young voters and first-time voters are requesting historic levels of absentee ballots, we are not yet seeing a corresponding return of those ballots. We urge every voter with an absentee ballot at home now to complete and return it to an official dropbox, if available in your county, your county election office, or via the postal service.”

The analysis is a part of an ongoing data tracking and reporting project between BlueLabs Analytics and the SPLC to track requested and returned absentee ballots as well as early voting in the states that report these numbers. These numbers will be essential reference points as Election Night results begin to be reported, and the SPLC, allied groups, and election observers strive to ensure enough votes have been counted for an appropriate call to be made at presidential and statewide levels. 

Read the full report here:

Currently, the SPLC projects regular updates on absentee and early voting trends and analysis every two to three times a week before November 3. 


  • As of October 15th, over 14 million people have already voted in the 2020 election, both by mail and early in-person. 43 million more people have requested their ballots.
    • The number of people who have already voted or requested their ballots represents over 42% of the total votes cast in 2020.
  • ​​​​​​​Using modeled partisanship combined with party affiliation in states where it’s available, the SPLC analysis estimates that Democrats hold an 21.6% advantage over Republicans in ballots cast by mail and 14.1% advantage in early in-person votes. Democrats also have a 15.3% advantage in ballots requested (down slightly from 15.8% last week).
  • Women continue to outpace men in total ballots requested, however their advantage of requests has dropped from 12.4% to 9.4% as of today. Women are outpacing men in mail ballots returned by 10.4% and by 11.2% in early in-person votes. 



  • Latinx voters currently make up 12.5% of mail ballots cast, though they represent 16.2% of registered voters in the state. Latinx voters make up 18.2% of ballot requests.
  • First time voters make up 5.4% of mail ballots cast in Florida, compared to 4.5% nationally.


  • 500,833 voters in Pennsylvania have cast their ballots by mail with another 2,043,714 people having requested ballots.
  • The share of ballots cast among voters under 40 is just 19.6% despite representing 26.4% of ballots requested.  
  • Democrats are significantly outpacing Republicans in mail ballots cast. They currently hold a 60.5% advantage. This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • While first time voters represent 8.0% of ballots requested, they make up just 4.2% of mail ballots cast so far.


  • 1,174,423 people in Michigan have cast their mail ballots. Another 1,650,714 have requested ballots and 25,947 have voted early in-person.
  • Modeled Republicans are currently outpacing modeled Democrats in mail ballots cast by 1.0% (this is down from 10/8 when modeled Democrats held a 1.0% advantage). 
  • Black voters make up 10.6% of ballots returned (up from 9.5% last week).
  • First time voters make up 9.5% of outstanding ballots requested, but just 4.4% of mail ballots cast.


  • 704,537 voters in Wisconsin have voted in the 2020 election. Another 541,836 voters have requested their mail ballots.
  • Modeled Democrats are leading modeled Republicans in mail ballots cast by 1.4% (down from 3.6% on 10/8). 
  • Voters 65 and older currently make up 44.4% of mail ballots cast despite making up just 36.9% of registered voters. 


  • 34,908 voters in Nevada have cast their ballots by mail. The state of Nevada sent mail ballots to all registered voters this year, so there is no data about ballot requests to report.
  • Democrats are currently outpacing Republicans by 6.4% in mail ballots cast. This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • 9.6% of mail ballots cast have come from first time voters, which is ahead of the 4.5% national average. 
  • Despite making up 19.7% of registered voters in Nevada, Latinx voters make up just 8.8% of mail ballots cast. Similarly, Black voters make up 11.6% of registered voters but just 6.3% of mail ballots cast.


  • 735,961 people have cast ballots (either by mail or early in-person) in Georgia, with another 1,060,393 having requested mail ballots.
  • Modeled Democrats still hold a 9% advantage over Republicans in ballots returned. However, that advantage is slimmer - only 3.9% - when looking at early in-person votes.
  • Black voters currently over-index in early in-person votes. They make up 38.6% of EIP votes, while being 34.6% of registered voters in Georgia. 
  • Cobb, Fulton, Dekalb, and Gwinnett counties lead in ballots cast by mail. These counties lead in early in-person votes as well. 

North Carolina

  • In North Carolina, 493,610 voters have cast their mail ballots.
  • Black voters continue to cast absentee ballots at a steady rate of 17.4%. This is consistent with the share of Black registered voters in North Carolina (17.8%).
  • By party, Democrats still make up almost three times more ballots returned than Republicans (51.0% compared to 17.8%, respectively). The 33.2% gap is slightly down from 35.3% last week. This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Wake and Mecklenburg continue to outpace other counties in votes cast by mail, representing 28.2% of ballots returned (slightly up from 26.8% last week).


  • Arizona has begun reporting ballots returned this week. So far, 146,070 voters have cast their ballots; 141,013 by mail, and 5,057 in person. 
  • Although Democrats and Republicans now make up almost even shares of ballots requested (35% and 36%, respectively), Democrats hold a 21.3% advantage over Republicans in ballots returned. This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Latinx voters currently under-index in votes cast by mail, compared to their share of the electorate. So far, 10.6% of ballots returned are from Latinx voters, despite making up 18.4% of registered voters.
  • Maricopa County represents the overwhelming majority of votes cast by mail (75.2%), followed by Pima (20%).


  • 98,697 voters in Maine have cast their mail ballots and another 29,489 have voted early in-person. 211,509 voters currently have outstanding mail ballots.
  • Democrats currently hold a 44.4% advantage over Republicans in mail ballots cast and a 29.0% advantage in early in-person votes. 
  • Voters 65 and older make up 55.1% of both mail ballots cast and early in-person votes, despite making up just 42.3% of registered voters. 

Read the full report here: