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This Is A “We” Election

A reminder that a very small slice of the U.S. population determined our collective fate in 2016. Are we going to let that happen again in 2020? 

In the final stretch, it’s important to emphasize that this election is a “WE” election: every last one of us is responsible for what happens. The three Cs are responsible for any outcome this week: the candidates, the campaigns and the citizens. Either you want our house to burn down or you don’t. The choice is ours. Hence, Democrats need every potential vote in play to ensure the national house doesn’t burn to the ground. This will mean a unified coalition of voters from all demographic groups able to overwhelm 1) any Election-Eve-to-Election-Day surge by fanatic Trump voters driven by racial animus and 2) obvious voter suppression tactics being played through polling place closures, long lines, rejected on-site and mail ballots, and multiple legal challenges from Republicans hell bent on cheating their way into an election “win.” 

With the country in the midst of not only a pandemic and economic meltdown, but a federal government pandemic and economic meltdown response that is even worse now than when it started, it’s absolutely crucial for as many voters still on the bench to get tapped and put in play. The bigoted klepto-fascist tendencies of the current president, which will get considerably worse if he manages to steal a second term, should also be enough motivation. 

Don’t Sleep … 

While, at first glance, the fact that voters who have voted by mailoutnumbering voters who plan to vote on election day should be an encouraging sign for Biden given there’s been such high early voter turnout showing a majority of mail-in votes going to the Democrat, there’s a need for serious caution and more Democratic and Democratic-lean voter turnout. Trump’s in-person on election day support, at least according to YouGov, far outstrips similar in-person on election day support by 25 points. There are signs of a potentially massive Trump election day surge from his base.

Also, 2020 Trump voters are far more likely to say they’ll stay in line to vote for “… as long as it takes” … 

Why Is This Important? 

While 2020 fundamentals are slightly different from 2016 outcomes, the 2016 election still taught us not to leave anything to chance. 

Yes, more than 93.2 million ballots have already been cast as of the Sunday before Election Day …

Not only is that a 61 percent increase compared to early voting ballots cast in 2016 (58 million) that is now 67 percent of all ballots cast in 2016 – which was 140,114,502 according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS)Or: that’s also 72 percent of the combined 128,838,341 ballots cast for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. We recall that in that election, while Trump lost the popular vote, he still had enough votes (and Democrats lost enough votes) to win handily through the Electoral College.

This massive early voting surge that’s already might seem like a major advantage for Democrats who are showing a 15 point edge … 

Republicans are showing a slight in-person vote edge … 

And aren’t that far behind in returned mail ballots 

(Trump) “Minority” Rules … 

While Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes, it didn’t count ultimately since she lost the Electoral College. She lost the Electoral College because Democrats failed to connect with or lost potential voters in key battleground states, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. An additional factor of direct Republican voter suppression strategies in states like Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin ate away at potential Democratic base voters at the margins. 

Without digging too much into the numbers, 2016 turnout did exceed 2012 turnout, from 58.6 percent turnout in 2012 to 60.1 percent, according to the United States Election Project. If you go with the final tally of more than 140 million ballots recorded by the EAC, that’s actually 65 percent of the more than 214 million citizens registered to vote. 

Looking at those numbers a little further, let’s consider … 

  • First the total U.S. population in 2016
  • 140 million ballots cast translates into just 43 percent of the overall U.S. population participating in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 
  • If 65 percent of registered Americans (214 million) voted, that means 35 percent of the registered electorate – 74 million registered Americans – did not vote (and a few in that batch were not counted or “lost”). 
  • In 2016, there were a total of 249.5 million Americans over the age of 18 – which means there were 249.5 million Americans eligible to register to vote. That is 77 percent of the U.S. population (323.1 million) being eligible to vote. 
  • With 214 million citizens registered to vote in total, that’s about 86 percent of the population ages 18 and up. And that’s also 66 percent of the total U.S. population. 

Remember: 140 million total ballots cast in 2016 was just 43 percent of the overall U.S. population making a decision for the other 57 percent – the majority of Americans. But, it gets worse as we think deeper about it. Just because more than 93 million ballots have been cast – and a majority appear to come from registered Democrats (at the moment) – doesn’t mean they’re all ballots for Biden. 

Recall the total number of ballots cast for Trump in 2016 …

  • 62,238,425 votes is about 44.4 percent of the 140 million ballots cast that year once all was said and counted. 
  • 62,238,425 votes also translates into just 29 percent of all registered voters (214 million) in 2016. 
  • It’s also just 25 percent of all voting-age citizens (249.5 million) 
  • And it’s just … 19.2 percent of the entire U.S. population (323.1 million)

Translated: just under 20 percent of the overall U.S. population (a small minority of voters who were overwhelmingly White) – and a little over 62 million Americans out of 323 million – made this decision for the other 80 percent of us in 2016 and forced us into the current predicament. If there is tightening in key battleground states, keep in mind an MIT post-2016 studywhich found more than 1 million votes were lost to some form of voter suppression, in addition to nearly 2 million votes lost in Florida as convicted felons, at the time, were not permitted to vote at all. That amounted to an estimate of just over 2 percent of the registered electorate that cast ballots in the presidential election lost. 

How do you feel about 20 percent of the population determining the future of the other 80 percent?


  • CHARLES D. ELLISON is an award-winning thought leader, political strategist, commentator and advocacy expert with nearly two decades of applied expertise in the arena of politics, public policy, campaigns and elections, crisis management and emerging/digital media strategy. Ellison is the Executive Producer & Host of Reality Check, a daily public affairs program on WURD (96.1FM / 900AM / in Philadelphia). He is also Contributing Editor for The Philadelphia Citizen, weekly Wednesday co-host on the nationally syndicated Keeping it Real w/ Rev. Al Sharpton, and Managing Editor for, a publication covering the intersection of the environment, race and income. His writings have been frequently featured in major publications such as The Philadelphia Tribune,, The Forward, Politico, Pacific Standard, The Daily Beast, The Washington Post and others. He is a regular analyst for numerous major metropolitan media outlets including WVON-AM (Chicago), WHUR-FM (Washington, D.C.), KSRO-AM (California) and KDKA (Pittsburgh). He has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, FOX, CBS’ Face the Nation, SkyTV and elsewhere. More engagement @ellisonreport on Twitter. CHARLES WRITES FOR – – – – –

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