ITHACA, N.Y.—Tompkins County residents have continued to embrace early voting, as 7,171 people showed up from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6 to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.

Tompkins County Democratic Election Commissioner Stephen DeWitt said that the 7,100+ voters is the second-highest early turnout for any election since early voting was first introduced, in 2019. The highest, predictably, was the 2020 election when 13,725 voted early.

When early voting was introduced, its goal was to expand access to voting by relieving some of the emphasis on Election Day, and while the sample size will remain small for a few more election cycles, that seems to have been the effect, albeit a bit muted. The 2022 election will add valuable data to charting the effectiveness of early voting.

For instance: 2016 and 2020 were similarly fierce presidential elections. While the total percentage of voter turnout remained mostly constant, at 78 and 77 percent respectively (of registered voters, not total residents), the number of voters increased from 43,008 to 45,845 in 2020. There was very little impact in the 2019 to 2021 election, where the number of voters went from 17,136 to 17,191—though these off-year elections are obviously dependent on the volatile interest in local races, which can vary widely.

A variety of factors make it somewhat difficult to gauge the true trend of early voting, though this number seems encouraging for helping higher turnout. Early voting started in New York in 2019, so there isn’t another midterm election to compare it to. The numbers in 2020 were obviously quite high, but that’s a presidential election year and those routinely motivate far more voters than normal. Not to mention, November 2020 would have been at the height of fears over COVID-19 transmission, making early voting an especially attractive option to those who didn’t want to risk being around a larger group on Election Day.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com