- With two weeks until Election Day, more than 35 million Americans have already cast ballots in the 2020 vote, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
- While Democrats have dominated vote-by-mail, Republicans are starting to make up ground with in-person early voting.
- In-person early voting began this week in Florida and Wisconsin, two key states that could be decisive in the presidential election.
Votes cast by mail and in person this election cycle have now reached 25.5% of the more than 136 million total ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election. By Oct. 23, 2016, only 5.9 million Americans had voted early.
While Democrats have dominated vote-by-mail, Republicans are starting to make up ground with in-person early voting.
Of about 14.1 million returned mail ballots tracked by the U.S. Elections Project, registered Democrats have sent in 54.5%, compared with 23.5% by Republicans and 21.5% by voters with no party affiliation.
When it comes to the over 2.2 million reported in-person votes, the margin is narrower. Registered Democrats have cast 43.3% of in-person ballots, with Republicans closely trailing at 35.5% and unaffiliated voters at 20.7%, according to the project.
As President Donald Trump has, without evidence, criticized and stoked fears about mail-in ballots throughout his reelection campaign, it's not surprising that Republicans might prefer in-person voting.
"Republicans will show up in person on Election Day and reelect President Trump," Trump spokesperson Thea McDonald said in an email last week.
Will GOP turnout on Nov. 3 be enough to overcome the Democrats' early voting lead?
"If I were running a campaign, I'd much prefer to be the one where I've already banked millions of votes more than my opponent," Michael McDonald, director of the U.S. Elections Project and political science professor at the University of Florida, wrote on the project's website Sunday.
High early-voting turnout allows Democratic organizers to cross off names on their targeting lists and focus resources on turning out a smaller pool of remaining voters closer to Election Day, McDonald said. Democratic challenger Joe Biden's campaign is not resting on its laurels.
"Early voting is already underway in many states. Millions of voters have already cast their ballots. But there is still a long way to go in this campaign, and we think this race is far closer than folks on [Twitter] think. Like a lot closer," Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said on Twitter last Wednesday.
Party breakdown totals so far include only states that report party registration data. Several critical states do not report political affiliation at this stage, including Texas, which has led early voting with a staggering 4.7 million ballots cast as of Tuesday afternoon.
Texas kicked off in-person early voting last week and has already seen over 52.5% of total voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election in the state. Over a quarter of registered voters have cast their ballots both in-person and by mail.
In North Carolina, about a quarter of registered voters have cast their ballots for president as of early Tuesday morning. As one-stop in-person early voting started last Thursday, North Carolina's turnout is far outpacing that of 2016. Registered Democrats have cast 44.98% of ballots so far, compared with 26.26% from Republicans and 28.40% from unaffiliated voters, according to tallies released by state election officials.
In-person early voting opened in Florida on Monday morning with long lines even amid stormy weather. As of Tuesday morning, state election officials reported a record 366,436 votes cast at the polls. The Tampa Bay Times reported that in-person voting is predicted to bring a wave of conservative voters, with around two-thirds of Florida GOP voters expected to cast ballots in person this election.
Wisconsin voters began casting ballots in person Tuesday morning. Trump won the swing state by less than a percentage point in 2016, ending Wisconsin's seven-election streak of backing Democratic candidates.
While Biden has maintained a sizable lead over the president in the national polls, he holds a narrower advantage in key battleground states. The final weeks until Election Day still hold plenty of opportunity and uncertainty for both candidates, including the final presidential debate on Thursday, potential developments in the search for a coronavirus vaccine and, of course, any October surprises.