Port: Turns out Republicans have little to fear from early voting

The 2020 election cycle may have shattered this myth.

Maureen Olsen checks her ballot before voting in south Moorhead Tuesday, Nov. 3. W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — It's a truism in politics that high voter turnout is bad for Republicans and good for Democrats.

Because so many believe that truism is, well, true, Democrats expend endless resources hurling (often exaggerated or flat-out inaccurate) accusations of voter suppression at Republicans.

Many Republicans also believe it, feeling obligated to make voting more difficult than it has to be and lending credence to at least some of the aforementioned accusations.

But what if it's all nonsense?

The 2020 election cycle, with the big shift we saw toward early voting by mail, may have shattered this myth.


Certainly, that's true at the national level. "The highest turnout since 1908 led to record support for both major parties," my friend Dave Weigel reports in the Washington Post .

"This election debunked a story Democrats had told themselves for decades: that when more voters turn out, they win. When they saw turnout spiking, even in Republican-friendly areas, they assumed that the low-propensity voters heading to the polls were theirs," he continued.

They were wrong.

Sure, Donald Trump lost the national election (accept it, my friends), but in other races, Republicans did well. Though they were expected to, thanks to polls that massively oversampled liberal voters , the Democrats have not re-taken the Senate. Control of that chamber will be dictated by a couple of runoff races in Georgia , but before the election, many expected Democrats to ride a "blue wave" to a majority.

It didn't happen.

In the U.S. House, Republicans expanded the caucus by six seats and have leads in most of the races yet to be called.

Further down the ballot, Republicans gained a gubernatorial seat in Montana, and while it's hard to do the math yet on state legislative races, things are clear enough that we can see Democrats didn't do well.

"At the hyper-local level of state legislatures, where wins can be decided by dozens of votes, Democrats fared poorly," Time reports .


These national trends hold up in North Dakota, too.

Our state set a record for ballots cast this year ( though the turnout percentage was more pedestrian ), and the NDGOP gave the Democratic-NPL a drubbing. Working on the theory that the Democratic-NPL couldn't possibly do any worse, most political observers felt, before the election, that the NDGOP would probably end up losing a few seats in the Legislature.

That didn't happen. Democrats lost three seats in the state Senate and one in the House.

Record-setting voting didn't hurt Republicans on the statewide ticket, either. Donald Trump won every single county in North Dakota except two — Sioux and Rollette, both home to large Native American populations — and every NDGOP candidate on the statewide ballot won their elections in landslides.

No Democrat on the statewide ballot, including Joe Biden, got even 35% of the vote. The Democratic-NPL's top-performing candidate was Mark Haugen, who ran for Treasurer and appeared to have picked up a point or two thanks to a tiny faction of Trumpy Republicans protesting Republican candidate Thomas Beadle .

But in this case, "top-performing" means Haugen barely got more than a third of the vote.

Which brings us back to the point of this column.

Where's the evidence that high voter participation hurts Republican candidates?


If the 2020 vote has shown us anything clearly, it's that this truism is a myth.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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