Two days before election day, voter turnout in the US has already reached historic levels. By Sunday morning, around 92 million people had already cast their vote – almost twice as many as at the beginning of 2016 – and that number will surely increase before Tuesday.
The early turnout in this election was only slightly more than two-thirds of the votes cast in 2016. This emerges from data from the US election project carried out by Professor Michael McDonald of the University of Florida.
And some states are well above this statewide mark of 66.8 percent: Texas, for example, dwarfed not only the total number of early votes for 2016, but also the total number of votes for 2016. In the Lone Star State, around 9.67 million people have already voted this year; In 2016, fewer than 9 million voters cast a vote.
Part of the reason for this is simple: Texas is a growing state. According to the Texas Tribune, around 1.8 million new voters have joined the community since 2016. But it's not just a numbers game. Even in percent, something extraordinary seems to be happening in Texas.
In particular, the voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters is already almost at the level of 2016 – 57.3 percent in 2020 compared to 59.4 percent in 2016, again according to the Tribune – and is likely to increase even further on election day.
Although only two states – Texas and Hawaii – have exceeded their 2016 voter turnout due to the early vote alone, other states are approaching that mark. According to Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, the turnout in Florida on Saturday night was 92 percent of the state's 2016 vote.
Georgia, North Carolina, and Montana, among others – have states that could have a significant impact on Senate control if a new Congress is sworn in, and two of them are considered swing states in the presidential race – 90 percent of their states exceeded the 2016 voter turnout, according to US Electoral project.
Covid-19 and voter enthusiasm contribute to early turnout
There are a few reasons for the sky-high voter turnout we've seen so far and, first and foremost, the coronavirus. It is generally a good idea not to congregate indoors in the middle of a pandemic, and voting early will allow people to avoid it.
Mail-in ballots eliminate the need to go to a polling station, and long voting periods help disperse the crowds that might otherwise be held on election day. Many states have taken steps this year to widen the options for early voting: all but a handful are offering apologetic absentee voting, and even Texas, which doesn't, added more days for early personal voting.
The lion's share of the early votes cast so far has been in the mail: nearly 59 million versus 33 million in person.
People are just too excited to vote too. According to Gallup, 67 percent of Americans said they would vote "more enthusiastically" in 2020 than in previous elections, up 20 percent from 2016.
As Vox's Jen Kirby and Rani Molla point out in their comprehensive early voting statement, the Democrats seem to have had an advantage so far on the overall number of early votes. According to the democratic data company TargetSmart, the Democrats are around 7 points ahead.
Previous non-voters seem to emerge in 2020 as well. So far in 2020, at least 16 million people who have not cast a vote have done so.
And there is a third notable category for early voting: young voters. In Texas, for example, more than 1 million voters between the ages of 18 and 29 have voted early. In 2016, only around 1.2 million votes were cast.
While early polls are a good sign of a large turnout, which could hit its highest level in a century, they don't necessarily tell you much about which candidate will be ahead on election day.
As Kirby and Molla point out
Democrats vote in much larger numbers by mail, which is a big reason they have such a huge advantage in early voting. This was particularly expected of President Trump not correct but repeated anyway Allegations of election fraud filtered to its followers. So the Republicans show up for an early personal vote and more are expected to fail on election day.
All of these postal ballot papers could also mean that the reporting of the election results will take a little longer – or a lot longer. In some states, election officials cannot start counting postal ballots until election day, regardless of how early they are received. So don't expect immediate results when the polls close on Tuesday.
If you haven't voted yet but still want to vote early, there are a few options. Some states offer early face-to-face voting by Monday – a full list can be found here – so this may still be possible depending on where you live.
If you have a postal ballot, it is almost certainly far too late to mail it with the assurance that it will arrive in time for the counting. Instead, your best option is to send it to your local polling station or to a ballot box (if one is available in your state).
Once you've done that, buckle your seat belts: 92 million Americans have already voted, and election day is almost here.
Correction, November 1st: An earlier version of this article stated that Texas was the only state to overshadow its 2016 vote count in the early voting period. Hawaii did this too and the story has been updated accordingly.
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