WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — More than 50 million people have already voted in the upcoming election, besting the entire early voting period ahead of the 2016 race, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The total includes early in-person voting and mail-ballots that have already been received by states.
According to the U.S. Elections Project, some 52.7 million Americans had cast ballots by Friday afternoon. The early voting total of 2016 was 47 million Americans.
According to the New York Times, the early voting total represents more than 38% of all the votes casts four years ago. In places like Texas, 70% of the 2016 voting total had already cast ballots. Early voting has not started in some states.
An Associated Press count from earlier this week showed Democrats outvoting Republicans by a 2-1 ratio in the 42 states included in the count. Republicans have been bracing themselves for this early Democratic advantage for months, as they’ve watched President Donald Trump rail against mail-in ballots and raise unfounded worries about fraud. Polling, and now early voting, suggest the rhetoric has turned his party’s rank and file away from a method of voting that, traditionally, they dominated in the weeks before Election Day.
That gives Democrats a tactical advantage in the final stretch of the campaign. In many critical battleground states, Democrats have “banked” a chunk of their voters and can turn their time and money toward harder-to-find infrequent voters.
Of course, none of this means Democrats will lead in votes by the time ballots are counted. Both parties anticipate a swell of Republican votes on Election Day that could, in a matter of hours, dramatically shift the dynamic.
“The Republican numbers are going to pick up,” said John Couvillon, a GOP pollster who is tracking early voting. “The question is at what velocity, and when?”
Republicans argue signs of enthusiasm are meaningless — Democratic early voters are people who would have voted anyway, they say. But an AP analysis of the early vote shows 8% of early voters had never cast a ballot before, and 13.8% had voted in half or fewer of previous elections for which they were eligible.
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 filed 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 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.