Northampton and Lehigh County saw record numbers of voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election. (Courtesy of Lehigh Valley Stands Up)

2020 election sets record voter turnout nationwide and in Pennsylvania

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This year, there was a record turnout for voters across the country  during the 2020 election — and the same holds true for Pennsylvania and Northampton and Lehigh counties.

As a country, about 66 percent of the voting-eligible population voted in the 2020 election — topping the 1960 election as the highest turnout ever recorded. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar announced a voter turnout rate of 70.93 percent of the voting-eligible population in the state, also surpassing 1960 for the state’s record. 

Lehigh and Northampton counties recorded voter turnout rates above the record state level — at 72.7 percent and 74.9 percent respectively. 

s So far, there is not much data available about the demographics of voters in Lehigh and Northampton counties, said Karen Pooley, a professor of political science at Lehigh, and a Bethlehem elected official. She said there is currently data at the county level, but it will take time for data to be available by individual voting wards. 

Pooley said this year’s voter turnout notably increased from four years ago. Pennsylvania recorded a 63.6 percent turnout in 2016. 

In both parties, there was a significant increase of voters in Lehigh and Northampton counties, but there was more of a bump in Democratic voters, Pooley said. There were around 31,000 more Democrartic voters and approximately 20,000 more Republican voters in 2020 than in the previous presidential election. 

Pooley said both counties have become more Democratic since the 2016 election. Northampton County voted for President Donald Trump four years ago before turning blue to support President-elect Joe Biden. Biden won Lehigh County with 53 percent support compared to the 50.51 percent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton gained in 2016, according to county data.

Pooley said Trump was a huge reason why more voters than ever before showed up to the polls.

“People voted for (Trump) because they love him, and people voted against him because they hate him,” Pooley said.

With Biden narrowly carrying Northampton County, Lehigh students who voted in the county likely helped him, since younger voters tend to support Democratic candidates. Pooley said she knew of a number of Lehigh students who took advantage of early voting in Northampton County this election. 

Some students from out the state, however, decided to keep their vote in their home state. 

Noah Harrison, ‘22, said he was already registered in Massachusetts before he left for school and wanted to vote on specific issues in his hometown. 

Although he chose to vote in his home state, Harrison said he understands why some students register to vote in Pennsylvania.

“I think that Northampton County voter turnout was very important,” he said. “Northampton County tends to be a crucial county in the election. I was very impressed by the voter turnout this election. There was a sense of urgency in this country for change. I think we saw that with record-setting voting turnout nationwide.”

Voter accessibility was integral to this year’s presidential election and likely aided in the turnout. 

Harrison said a lot of his friends took advantage of the opportunity to vote by mail due to concerns regarding COVID-19.

Nina Alameno, ‘21, is a Democracy Fellow with the Campus Vote Project, which is supported by the Fair Elections Center, a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization.

The goal of the Campus Vote Project is to increase voter engagement among students and reduce the barriers to voting. The organization has various Democracy Fellows from campuses across the nation work closely with universities and community colleges to spread education and awareness around voting. 

Alameno partnered with Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council to create a contest between Greek chapters to see who could get the highest percentage of their students to register to vote. The Democracy Fellows utilized Instagram and other social platforms to spread infographics on voting information. 

Alameno said, even though there was progress for voter turnout, it was still only around 65 percent, meaning about one-third of the country is still not voting. 

Along with the Campus Vote Project, Alameno herself is committed to making sure everyone’s voice is heard at the polls.

“We were really able to see that this is Lehigh, and the student body has a voice and power behind each vote,” she said. “As a first-time voter myself, I am really really pleased and proud of voter turnout, as it was the highest this election than ever before.”

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1 Comment

  1. Robert F. Davenport Jr on

    “People voted for (Trump) because they love him, and people voted against him because they hate him,” Pooley said. Sad but true. This may lead to disenchantment with President Elect Biden already evident in those who “love” Trump.

    I think this was Trump’s strategy, to hope that lovers turnout would trump registration and haters turnout. His actions and words increased turnout on both sides and was almost successful..

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