Less than a month before Election Day, an unprecedented number of Americans have already cast their ballots, indicating a possible record turnout for the race between incumbent President Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden.
More than 8 million Americans have voted in the election so far, almost 10 times the number who had done so by this point in 2016, according to data released Friday by the United States Elections Project, which compiles early voting data.
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“We’ve never seen this many people voting so far ahead of an election,” Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, who administers the project, told Reuters. He noted the shift could be the result of states expanding early and mail-in voting — a result of the coronavirus pandemic — as well as an eagerness to weigh in on Trump’s political future.
More than 50 million people have requested mail-in ballots this year, the data shows. In 2016, some 57.2 million Americans voted early in person, by mail or via absentee ballot. State election officials in several key swing states have warned it could take days to count all of the votes.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail-in voting would allow for widespread fraud, but experts have said such fraud is rare.
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McDonald told Reuters he expects total voter turnout in the 2020 election to hit 150 million, or 65% of eligible voters. That would mark the highest it has been in a general election since 1908.
As of Friday, Democrats had returned more than 1.7 million ballots nationally, while Republicans had returned about 750,500, according to Elections Project data. Florida so far has the highest number of people who have already cast a ballot at 1.37 million, followed by Virginia at 886,962 and Michigan at 844,344.
All but about a half-dozen states allow some form of early in-person voting.
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According to an aggregate of polls by Real Clear Politics, Biden is currently leading Trump nationally by 9.6 percentage points. But the margin between the candidates is much slimmer in the must-win battleground states they need to secure the necessary electoral votes.