So far, the 2020 presidential election has set the record for the highest voter turnout in 120 years and the highest record for postal voting ever.
A whopping 160 million people – almost two-thirds of all eligible American voters – cast their ballots this year, and experts predict that the number could rise even further if the counting of votes continues nationwide.
At present, voter turnout in 2020 is expected to be around 67 percent. This is the highest turnout since the election between Republican President William McKinley and Democratic challenger William Jennings Bryan in 1900, when 73.7 percent of the vote was cast.
Typically, U.S. elections range between 50 and 60 percent turnout, but some elections in U.S. history have reached 82.6 percent turnout, while others have dropped to 6.3 percent.
Interestingly, each of the highest voter turnout in history took place in the mid-to-late 19th century, with five elections reaching 80 percent or more.
One of the elections with the lowest turnout was in 1792, when only 6.3 percent of voters cast their votes. This was closely followed by the 1820 race between James Monroe and John Quincy Adams with a voter turnout of 10.1 percent.
And the very first presidential race of 1789 had the third-lowest turnout in the history of the United States with only 11.6 percent.
The following list includes the five best races with the highest voter turnout in U.S. history, according to research data from The Elect Project and 270towin.
#5 1880 Election: James A. Garfield vs. Winfield S. Hancock
Winner: James A. Garfield (Republican)
Voter turnout: 80.5 percent
Votes received: 214 of 369 (58%)
Votes received: 4,454,416 (48.3%)
In the middle of the late 19th century, several elections were held with a voter turnout of over 80 %. In 1880, James A. Garfield became the nation’s 20th president, with the smallest popular vote victory in modern history. At that time it was the highest turnout in history.
#No. 4 Election 1888: Benjamin Harrison vs. Grover Cleveland
Winner: Benjamin Harrison (Republican)
Voter turnout: 80.5 percent
Votes received: 233 of 401 (58.1%)
Votes received: 5,439,853 (47.8%)
Eight years later, the presidential election campaign between Benjamin Harrison and the Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland again saw a high voter turnout of 80.5 percent. Although Cleveland received a higher percentage of votes, Harrison won the presidency with the electoral college.
#3 Election 1868: Ulysses S. Grant v. Horatio Seymour
Winner: Ulysses S. Grant (Republican)
Voter turnout: 80.9 percent
Votes received: 214 of 294 (72.8%)
Votes received: 3,012,833 (52.7%)
In 1868, the battle between Ulysses S. Grant and Horatio Seymour encouraged 80.9 percent of eligible voters to cast their votes. This was the first U.S. election held during the reconstruction, which meant that people living in Texas, Mississippi and Virginia were not considered eligible to vote.
#No. 2 1860 Election: Abraham Lincoln vs. John C. Breckinridge, John Bell & Stephen A. Douglas
Winner: Abraham Lincoln (Republican)
Voter turnout: 81.8 percent
Votes received: 180 of 303 (59.4%)
Votes received: 1,866,452 (39.7%)
The elections of 1860 expressed a divided America and created the conditions for the American Civil War. With the second-highest turnout in history, voters across the country cast their ballots to decide the future of slavery and the power of state law.
#1 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden
Winner: Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican)
Voter turnout: 82.6 percent
Votes received: 185 of 369 (50.1%)
Votes received: 4,036,298 (47.9%)
The highest voter turnout to date in the history of the United States was the 1876 election between the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and the Democratic opponent Samuel Tilden. This election granted blacks the right to vote after the passage of the 15th Amendment, although many voters were confronted with acts of oppression. It was also one of the most controversial races in history. Neither candidate won the majority, and after the House of Representatives appointed a commission, Hayes was granted the presidency.