- At least 944,114 Americans had voted in this year’s US presidential election as of Sunday, according to data collected by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who runs the US Election Project.
- McDonald estimated that fewer than 10,000 people had voted at the same point in the 2016 election cycle.
- McDonald’s 2020 voting statistics came from early-voting data from 25 states. He said the true number of people who had voted might be higher because not every state released complete early-voting data.
- The 2020 landscape is a far cry from that of 2016: The COVID-19 pandemic is encouraging remote voting, and concerns that the US Postal Service can’t deliver ballots in time have most likely helped caused an early rush.
- McDonald also credited President Donald Trump, who he said “inspires passion unlike any other political figure.”
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Roughly 1 million Americans have already cast their votes in the 2020 election, compared with fewer than 10,000 votes estimated to have been cast by the same point during the 2016 election cycle.
According to a blog post published by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who runs the US Election Project, at least 944,114 people had sent their votes by mail as of Sunday.
By the same point in the 2016 election cycle, McDonald estimated, only 9,525 people had voted by mail.
According to McDonald’s tracker, at least 1,025,722 early ballots had been cast for the 2020 election as of Monday evening.
McDonald said his 2020 voting data came from early-voting numbers published by 25 states. Many states do not make public comprehensive early-voting data, so McDonald said the true number of Americans who had already voted was probably higher.
The lack of complete early-voting data from all states also means that the comparison between 2020 and 2016 should be treated with caution, McDonald said.
But the disparity is extraordinary, considering that the first presidential debate has not yet happened, and that 86 times as many people have already voted compared with the same time in 2016.
McDonald said the large number of early votes at this stage indicated that the turnout rate for the 2020 election might be the largest in more than 100 years.
“So far, the numbers are consistent with a highly engaged electorate,” he wrote. “I’ve been projecting for some time that perhaps as many as 150 million people will vote in the November election, which would be the largest number in raw terms, and the highest turnout rate for those eligible to vote since 1908.”
There are several likely explanations for the disparity in early voting from 2016.
Concerns that the US Postal Service may be unable to process every mail-in ballot in time could prompt people to submit their votes as early as possible to avoid missing the cutoff point.
In mid-August, the USPS warned in a letter to state authorities that “certain deadlines” were “incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.”
And in a leaked recording, a top USPS official expressed concern that suppliers might not be able to print enough mail-in ballots for the election.
McDonald estimates that up to 70 million Americans have requested mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. In 2016, 33 million Americans voted by mail.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in voting, groundlessly claiming that the process is vulnerable to widespread fraud.
According to Politico, the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and Ohio has been pushing mail ballots to voters. “Vote Safe: By mail. From home,” one GOP ad said.
The coronavirus pandemic has also seen many analog habits turn digital or become remote.
Facing the prospect of long lines with social distancing, self-isolation, and face coverings, many people will decide to vote from home and eliminate the chance of catching the virus at a busy polling station.
McDonald also argued that people were simply more interested in this election because of the Trump factor.
“The most likely explanation for this phenomenon is Donald Trump,” he wrote. “Whether you love him or hate him, he inspires passion unlike any other political figure.”