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Early voting is already transforming our politics.


Early voting is already transforming our politics.

Early voting is already transforming our politics.

Early voting is already transforming our politics.

AP Photo : Gerry Bloome

NATIONWIDE — An unprecedented avalanche of early voting has transformed the 2020 election, possibly changing the way Americans vote forever.

At least 41.5 million voters have cast ballots in the 2020 election, according to Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Florida who specializes in elections, and the U.S. Elections Project.

What You Need To Know

Voters have cast at least 41.5 million ballots in the 2020 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project

Nationally, the eye-popping sum accounts for at least 30% of all votes cast in the 2016 election

Texas currently leads all states, with over 5.3 million ballots cast, which accounts for nearly 60% of their 2016 turnout

Vermont also crossed the halfway mark of their 2016 total turnout, at over 51%

Multiple states are close to nearly 50% of their 2016 total, including Georgia, North Carolina, Montana, New Mexico, and New Jersey

AP Photo: Gerry Bloome

That eye-popping sum of early votes is driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has transformed the way the nation votes.

Of note, over 29.5 million of those are mail-in ballots, and over 11.5 million are in-person votes, though the U.S. Elections Project notes that “some states do not differentiate between mail ballots and in-person votes.”

The total represents at least 30% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, with less than two weeks to go until election day.

The data also show voters embracing mail voting, which health officials say is the safest way to avoid coronavirus infection while voting. Of the early voters, 82% cast ballots through the mail and 18% in person. Black voters cast 10% of the ballots cast, about the same as their share of the national electorate, according to the AP analysis of data from L2, a political data firm. That’s a sign that those voters, who have been less likely to vote by mail than white people and Latinos, have warmed to the method. 

Mail ballots so far have skewed toward older voters, with half coming from voters over age 64. Traditionally, younger and minority voters send their mail ballots in closer to Election Day or vote in person. 

The mail ballots already returned in several states dwarf the entire total in prior elections. In Wisconsin, more than five times as many mail ballots have been cast compared with the entire number in 2016. North Carolina has seen nearly triple the number so far. 

In-person early voting began this week in several major states and also broke records, particularly in crowded, Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas. In Texas, Houston’s Harris County saw a record 125,000 ballots cast. In Georgia, hours-long lines threaded from election offices through much of the state’s urban areas.

Tunde Ezekiel, a 39-year-old lawyer and Democrat who voted early in Atlanta on Thursday, said he wanted to be certain he had a chance to oust Trump from office: “I don’t know what things are going to look like on Election Day. … And I didn’t want to take any chances.”

The obvious enthusiasm among Democrats has cheered party operatives, but they note that it’s hard to tell which way turnout will eventually fall. Republicans may be just as motivated, but saving themselves for Election Day.

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