Already having record-setting voter registration and mail-in ballot numbers, Northampton County, a critical battleground, could reach record levels of voter participation when the votes are tallied this election.
Becky Bartlett, the deputy director of administration for Northampton County, said as of the afternoon of Nov. 2, 75,230 out of the county’s 84,913 approved mail-in ballot applications had been received. Mail-in applications were approved for over 37 percent of the county’s 227,378 registered voters.
By contrast, the nearly 89 percent of approved mail-in ballots that have been received by Northampton County as of Nov. 2 exceeds the Pennsylvania state average of around 81 percent so far this election, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Both numbers are likely to increase as voters have until Nov. 6 to return their ballots.
With over 33 percent of the county’s registered voters already having their ballot received before Election Day and over 16,000 more registered voters in 2020 than 2016, Northampton County — and the state — is in position to reach participation records as Pennsylvania is poised to play a significant role in determining the next president. Coming into Election Day, Northampton County already amassed more than half of its 2016 voter turnout totals via mail-in ballot alone.
Sarah Eagan, the Pennsylvania press secretary of NextGen America, a voter advocacy group, said she believes the 2020 election in Pennsylvania will be historic.
“I think part of the historic turnout is groups like NextGen and a lot of voter groups have been focused empowering young people around vote by mail,” Eagan said. “We had a lot of folks who took advantage of the option to vote by mail without an excuse this year and that then reduces lines on Election Day, hopefully, but we’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of people turning out. I think we’re going to have some really exciting numbers come the end of the night.”
Eagan said the youth turnout early this morning, with wait times of around two hours at polling places such as the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, which saw a high turnout rate of Lehigh University students, coupled with the emphasis on mail-in ballots, is an indicator of high turnout across the board.
Eagan said aside from the area around Lehigh’s campus, there was also high turnout in youth-dense areas like the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University in Philadelphia. Besides Northampton County’s rise in registered voters in 2020, the state’s nearly 9.1 million registered voters is a rise of more than 400,000 people from 2016.
Eagan said the urgency around voting in 2020, particularly in the youth vote, is something that was not seen in previous presidential elections. Particularly with the knowledge of Pennsylvania as a key swing state, Eagan said, voters want to make an impact.
“What stands between turning out to the polls in 2016 was a lack of information, and a lack of time,” Eagan said. “They had class, or they had jobs — any other obligation that prevented them from getting to the polls. Mail-in voting really allows people to vote when they wanted to, but also the incredible motivation we’re seeing this year — people are waiting in line, they really want to have their voice heard.”