A record numbers of voters casted their ballots ahead of Election Day on November 3, state election officials across the US have reported.
More than 22 million Americans had voted early by October 16, either in person or by mail, according to the US Election Project.
At the same point in the 2016 race, about 6 million votes had been cast.
According to experts, the surge in early voting correlates to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused many people to seek alternatives to Election Day voting.
On October 13, Texas, a state that has relatively tight restrictions on who can qualify for postal voting, set a record for most ballots cast on the first day of early voting.
On October 12, the Columbus Day federal holiday, officials in Georgia reported126,876 votes cast – also a state record.
In Ohio, a crucial swing state, more than 2.3 million postal ballots have been requested, double the figure in 2016.
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Reports indicate that registered Democrats have so far outvoted registered Republicans – casting more than double the number of ballots. And of these early voting Democrats, women and black Americans are voting in particularly high numbers. Some are motivated by dislike for President Donald Trump, while others have been energized by racial justice protests throughout the summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
However, this early advantage does not mean that Democrats can already claim victory. Republicans, who claim postal voting is vulnerable to fraud, say Democrats may win the early vote, but that Republicans will show up in large numbers on Election Day.
According to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, the rate of voting fraud overall in the US is between 0.00004% and 0.0009%.
The enormous numbers of voters have led to long queues, with some people waiting for up to 11 hours for an opportunity to vote.
Younger people, who historically have been difficult to get to the polls, appear to be turning out in larger numbers this year. The youth vote may be the highest it’s been since 2008 for the election of Barack Obama – the US’s first black president.
A recent survey by Axios found that four in ten university students said they planned to protest if President Trump wins. Six in ten said they would shame friends who could vote but choose not to.
By contrast, only 3% of surveyed students said they would protest if Joe Biden was elected.