WASHINGTON – With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, more than 14 million Americans have voted in the fall election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation despite barriers erected by the coronavirus pandemic – and setting a trajectory that could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.
In Georgia this week, voters waited as long as 11 hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting. In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 of roughly 500,000 who have returned mail ballots did not vote in the last presidential election. In Michigan, more than 1 million people – roughly one-fourth of total turnout in 2016 – have voted.
The picture is so stark that election officials across the country are reporting record early turnout, much of it in person, meaning that more results could be available on election night than previously thought.
Much of the early voting appears to be driven by heightened enthusiasm among Democrats. Of the roughly 3.5 million voters who have cast ballots in six states that provide partisan breakdowns, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2 to 1, according to a Washington Post analysis of data in Florida, Kentucky, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Dozens of voters who have shown up on their states’ first day of early voting over the past several weeks have described a desire to cast their ballots at the first possible moment as a statement against the president.
“Last night felt like Christmas Eve,” said Tony Lewis, 39, who showed up at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville on Tuesday as polls opened at 8:30 a.m. for the first day of in-person voting. “I just wanted to get out and be one of the first ones to cast my vote to hopefully end the insanity we are living in under the current administration.”
Republicans say the heavy turnout shows that Democratic votes are coming in earlier but not necessarily in higher numbers in the end. The Trump campaign and other Republicans say that Biden might win the early vote, but that the president will catch up on Election Day among supporters who do not trust mail balloting.