Early votes in the 2020 United States (U.S.) presidential election hit 70 million on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Election Project.
This represents more than half of the total 137 million ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.
More than 70 million Americans have cast ballots in the presidential election, more than half the total turnout of the 2016 election with one week to go until Election Day.
The tally, which shows a record-breaking pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout in percentage terms in more than a century, is the latest sign of intense interest in the contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
It also highlights voters’ desire to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 as the pandemic regathers strength heading into winter.
The data came in the “2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics” published on the website of the body, which serves as an information source for the country’s electoral system.
Many early voters said the coronavirus pandemic informed their decision to vote ahead.
Others cited the “chaos and long wait” on queues on Election Day as the reasons for their decision.
A breakdown of the early vote figure shows that 46.5 million ballots were cast through mail and 23.1 million through in-person voting.
The Director of U.S. Elections Project, Prof. Michael McDonald, described the development as good news, citing initial doubt about election officials’ ability to conduct the election during the pandemic
“There were many concerns about election officials’ ability to conduct an election during a pandemic.
“Not only are people voting, but they are voting over a longer period of time, thereby spreading out the workload of election officials,” McDonald said in a statement.
According to the statistics, Democrats were leading Republicans in mail-in voting for states that report party data, while Republicans were leading in voting in person.
Of the 26 million mail-in ballots recorded by the U.S. Elections Project, 51.3 per cent came from Democrats, and 25.5 per cent from Republicans.
On the other hand, Republicans led with 41.7% of the 7.4 million in-person votes tracked by the project as against 36.9% by Democrats.
Election Project said no fewer than 30 million requested mail ballots had not been returned, with deadlines for absentee ballots near.
It stated that the pending ballots include over 11 million from registered Democrats.
However, it was quick to note that the data was inconclusive as some states do not differentiate between mail ballots and in-person votes.
Reports say Republicans are hoping to bridge the gap with a strong turnout in person.
Democrats hold a significant advantage in early voting due to their embrace of mail balloting, which Republicans have historically cast in large numbers but have shunned amid repeated and unfounded attacks by Trump, who says the system is prone to widespread fraud.
Overall, Democrats hold roughly a two-to-one advantage in early voting numbers.
However, Republicans in recent weeks have narrowed the gap in early, in-person voting, data shows.
The high level of early voting has led Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the U.S. Elections Project, to predict a record U.S. voter turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of those eligible to vote, the highest rate since 1908.