KEY POINTS

  • Ballots cast so far account for 15% of the total number of ballots cast in 2016 and half of the total number of early votes
  • Democrats are outpolling Republicans 2-1
  • 8% of those who have voted early never have voted before

More than 20 million Americans already had cast early ballots by Friday with the Nov. 3 presidential election still more than two weeks away. The 20 million votes amount to 15% of the number of ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.

Elections experts said Democrats are propelling the vote, outvoting Republicans by a 2-1 ratio in the 42 states included in an Associated Press count.

“It’s crazy,” Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who tracks, told the AP. “We can be certain this will be a high-turnout election.”

He said the 20.8 million votes are 10 times as many as the number cast at this point in the 2016 race and half of all early votes cast in 2016. Eighty-two percent of the ballots were sent in through the mail while 18% were cast in person, with half of the votes coming from people at least 65 years of age.

Though Republicans said the Democratic surge is meaningless because their supporters are more likely to vote later or on Election Day, the AP said it appears 8% of those who already have voted never voted before and 13.8% voted in just half of previous elections.

A recent Gallup poll indicated 62% of Democrats planned to vote early compared with 28% of Republicans.

President Donald Trump has been railing against widespread mail-in voting, claiming it would lead to widespread fraud. Many states expanded their mail-in options in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 218,000 Americans since March and raised fears of contracting the virus at crowded voting sites on Election Day.

With Republicans more likely to opt for in-person, Election Day voting than Democrats, the early surge may not mean much.

“Republicans will show up in person on Election Day and reelect President Trump,” campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald told the Washington Post, adding that Democrats have “cannibalized” their Election Day turnout.

“There’s a big wave of Republicans coming. And frankly, that’s a data point that a lot of people tweeting about this fail to realize,” Steve Schale, a Democratic operative in Florida who heads the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country, told Politico.

“The numbers are pretty staggering for us and the return rates and the polling look good. But there’s just a lot we don’t know.”

“Voting in Florida is a marathon. And what you’re seeing is a bit of a sprint from the Democrats,” Trump Florida campaign director Susie Wiles told Politico. “But we have far more high-propensity voters on our side. That should be noted in all the hype about the Democrats’ lead. We’re not finished. We’re turning our sights to early in-person voting and to Election Day.”

CNN said, which placed the overall total at 17 million as of Thursday, more than 2 million votes have been cast so far in Florida, compared with fewer than 1 million in 2016.

Among other totals:

  • Georgia: 918,873 now versus 448,055 in 2016
  • Michigan: 1.15 million versus 369,721
  • Wisconsin: 592,579 versus 234,396

The AP said 75% of the 437,000 votes already cast in Pennsylvania were cast by Democrats as were half the votes in Florida. In Colorado, which has been conducting mail-in elections since 2013, only 19% of ballots cast so far have been from Republicans.

The process has not been without its stumbles. In New York, 100,000 faulty ballots were mailed out as were 50,000 in Columbus, Ohio. A vendor in Pennsylvania blamed delays on the high demand.

Early voters have not been discouraged by lengthy lines either. CNN reported some people waited as long as 11 hours in Georgia on Monday, the first day of in-person early voting while thousands awaited their turns in Texas.