A voter casts his ballot at a polling station during early voting for the U.S. Presidential election on October 31, 2020 in Arlington, United States. (Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)
A voter casts his ballot at a polling station during early voting for the U.S. Presidential election on October 31, 2020 in Arlington, United States. (Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)

The United States reached an impressive new early voter turnout record, with more than 100 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election before the polls opened on Tuesday. 

With mail-in ballots pouring in from all 50 states and droves of citizens taking advantage of early voting, elections experts reported a new milestone for the United States: over 100 million Americans have voted in the White House showdown between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden before Election Day.

To put that in context, the early vote in 2020 has seen more voters than the total vote count in every presidential election year through 1988. It’s also over 74% of the 2016 total vote, and sets up the nation to break voter-turnout records overall, by the time the election is finished.

The three states with the highest voter turnout prior to Election Day are California, Texas, and Florida. The Lone Star State has already surpassed its total voter turnout from the 2016 election, as nearly 10 million eligible voters have already cast their ballots. Florida has nearly matched the Texas voter turnout count. California had over 12 million votes as of Monday, Nov. 2.

But these aren’t just numbers. Each one has a face, and a story. That has included celebrities like Lady Gaga and Stevie Nicks, who both tried to inspire their fans to go out and make their voices heard at the voting booth. 

Many of the faces behind the nation’s massive voter turnout numbers, however, belong to everyday Americans. With everything from racial injustice to climate change and the pandemic seemingly on the ballot, the 2020 election has motivated thousands of women, communities of color, and the LGBTQ community to come out in force. Many of them feel compelled to vote for the first time in their life, and shared their stories with COURIER and its sister sites across the United States in the weeks leading up to Election Day. 

RELATED: LIVE BLOG: Voters Send Us Stories From Across the Country

As this year’s hurricane season is likely to break more records and wildfires continue to rampage across the West, climate change has become an increasingly dire threat for future generations.  Sarita Sarvate, an Indian immigrant residing in California, voted early this year because of her desire to secure a healthy planet and future for her 2-year-old granddaughter, Belle. 

“Recently, when I babysat for Belle, we were forced to stay inside and risk infecting each other with the coronavirus,” Sarvate told COURIER. “The alternative was to go outside and inhale the smoke from nearby wildfires. I could not explain to her the devastation we were witnessing as a result of climate change.”

From coast to coast, though, thousands of voters—including transgender Americans, immigrants, and people with disabilities—have shared moving stories on social media on why they are voting and what they are voting for in this election.

In Nevada, Bianca Gamez got to witness her father—a newly naturalized US citizen—vote for the first time in October. Gamez immigrated from Mexico when she was 7 months old and has been able to live as an undocumented person in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since she is undocumented, she cannot vote in elections, despite working and paying taxes. The Trump administration and its crackdown on immigrants have made immigration a priority for the young woman and others like her, which made her father’s right to vote a significant moment in family history. 

“Your impact does have greater [sway] and does create greater change. It trickles down to folks, even those who are not eligible to vote,” Gamez told COURIER. “Your vote can determine whether or not policies change, whether or not I stay in this country, the only country I’ve called home all these years, your vote can make that difference.” 

Other voters have seen Trump’s failures of leadership directly affect their lives in other ways. When her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2019, Keisha Shields, executive adviser of She Will Not Be Silenced, knew that she had to vote in honor of her father and for those who desperately need health insurance coverage across the nation.

“Last year, after Daddy’s medical bills swelled to over half-a-million dollars in just three short months, we learned that the Trump administration was proposing funding cuts that would both slash the budget for cancer research at the national level and slash health insurance opportunities for people in this country even further,” she told COURIER. 

“This year, I am more determined than ever to ensure that my vote speaks volumes and that my vote is a reflection of the values and integrity that my parents instilled in me,” Shields said. “This year, my vote is a vote for my dad’s legacy and I hope my vote loudly conveys that I will not be silenced.”

SEE MORE: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About in-Person Voting on Election Day