A record 1,012,211 voters have already cast early ballots in the 2020 election, according to data from 25 states tallied by the U.S. Elections Project.
The actual number is likely much higher because some states have yet to report their early voting totals, while others count early ballots on the local level, according to Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who maintains the data.
Around the same time during the 2016 election, only 9,525 voters had cast their ballots, according to McDonald.
“Nearly a million voters this far in advance of an election has never occurred in any American election. Period,” McDonald wrote on his website.
A number of factors are contributing to the unprecedented surge in early voting.
Several states have adopted laws expanding opportunities for early voting. Virginia allowed for only limited in-person voting in prior elections but has expanded it drastically in 2020. As a result, more than 200,000 Virginians have already voted early in person.
Americans are also concerned about the pandemic. In North Carolina, which didn’t change early voting laws, nearly 248,400 people have already cast ballots by mail and had them accepted for counting.
The pandemic contributed to the rapid expansion of laws allowing for voting by mail. At least 84 percent of American voters can cast ballots by mail in this election, according to a tally maintained by The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the 2020 election follows four of the most tumultuous years in American politics in recent memory, with the nation sharply divided on the performance of President Donald Trump and the impact of his policies.
“The most likely explanation for this phenomenon is Donald Trump,” McDonald wrote. “Whether you love him or hate him, he inspires passion unlike any other political figure.”
Voters in Virginia have cast more than 287,000 early ballots, the most of any state to date, available data shows. North Carolina is a close second, with 248,400 ballots cast. Both states will likely eventually be outpaced by more populous states such as Florida and California where voters have already requested nearly 26 million ballots.
Trump has long expressed concern about the massive amount of mail-in voting that will take place in the 2020 election, warning that the format is vulnerable to delays, Election Day chaos, and fraud.
“The Ballots being returned to States cannot be accurately counted. Many things are already going very wrong!” the president wrote on Twitter on Sept. 28.
The president has spotlighted recent incidents involving a limited number of mail ballots, including nine military ballots found discarded in Pennsylvania. Seven of the ballots were cast for Trump while the contents of the two others are unknown, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
Twitter appended a notice to Trump’s tweet on Sept. 28. It leads users to a page that cites news media outlets claiming concerns about fraud when it comes to mail-in voting are “unsubstantiated.” The page also cites MarketWatch claiming that voter fraud is “exceedingly rare in the US, including in states that have allowed mail-in voting for years.”
An election fraud database maintained by the conservative Heritage Foundation has logged 1,298 proven instances of voter fraud that have resulted in 1,121 criminal convictions. Project Veritas, a watchdog group, released footage on the night prior to the president’s tweet claiming to show illegal ballot harvesting in Minnesota.
Based on data from the three states that report the party affiliation of the voters who already cast ballots, Democrats have so far cast more than three times as many early ballots (137,860) as Republicans (42,822). A similar party-line divide exists in the number of mail ballots requested, according to the data. Democrats have so far requested more than 8 million more ballots (20,198,634) than Republicans (12,143,738).