Nearly 65 Million Early Votes Already Cast, Breaking Record

Nearly 65 Million Early Votes Already Cast, Breaking Record
People stand in line outside the Richland County Voter Registration & Elections Office on the second day of in-person absentee and early voting in Columbia, S.C., on Oct. 6, 2020. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

Just a week ahead of Election Day, American voters have already cast a record-breaking 64.7 million early votes, according to a turnout tracker.

Nationally, voters have, as of Tuesday, cast nearly 47 percent of the total votes counted in the 2016 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project run by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald. There were a total of 47.2 million early votes in the 2016 election, a number dwarfed by the number cast thus far in 2020.
“The numbers are stunning,” McDonald wrote in an Oct. 25 note, adding that, “the pace of some states’ early voting is such that with almost certainty states will begin surpassing their total 2016 total vote this week.”

Texas has, as of Tuesday, already surpassed over 82 percent of its 2016 total vote, with New Mexico and Montana each at around 70 percent.

Democrats account for nearly 49 percent of early voters thus far, Republicans 28 percent, and those with no party affiliation 22 percent, the tracker shows.

“Democrats enjoy a huge advantage in mail ballot requests, and mail ballot return rates,” McDonald noted, with Democrats having requested some 23.5 million mail ballots compared to Republicans’ 13.4 million. Democrats are also returning mail ballots at a significantly higher rate (46.6 percent) compared to Republican voters (38.3 percent).

“Republicans need to vote in-person to make up ground on the Democratic mail voters, either early or on Election Day. There is still some play left in the in-person early vote, but time is starting to run short such that Republicans will need to rely heavily on Election Day vote, which has traditionally been a strong day of voting for Republicans in recent elections,” McDonald added.

“The election is not over yet, not by a long shot,” he added.

In Florida, for example, Democrats have outvoted Republicans by a 615,000 margin by mail, while Republicans only have a 313,000 edge in person. In Nevada, where Democrats usually dominate in-person early voting but the state decided to send a mail ballot to every voter this year, the GOP has a 47,000 voter edge in-person while Democrats have a 100,000 advantage in mail ballots.

“At some point, Republicans have to vote,” McDonald told The Associated Press. “You can’t force everyone through a vote center on Election Day. Are you going to expect all those Republicans to stand in line for eight hours?”

That split in voting behavior—Democrats voting early, Republicans on Election Day—has led some Democrats to worry about Trump declaring victory because early votes are counted last in Rust Belt battlegrounds. But they’re counted swiftly in swing states such as Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, which may balance out which party seems ahead on election night.

Trump’s campaign has been pushing its voters to cast ballots early, but with limited success. “We see the Trump campaign, the RNC (Republican National Committee) and their state parties urging Trump’s supporters to vote by mail while the president’s Twitter account says it’s a fraud,” Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analyst, said on a recent call with reporters. “The Twitter account is going to win every time.”

But Bonier warned that he does not expect a one-sided election. “There are signs of Republicans being engaged,” he said. “We do expect them to come out in very high numbers on Election Day.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.