The 5.1 million total ballots cast as of Wednesday already suggests a record turnout for this year’s race compared to the 75,000 ballots that were cast at this time in 2016, according to data from the United States Elections Project.
“Big topline numbers were over 5 million already, and that’s unprecedented in a modern election in the United States,” Elections Project founder and University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald wrote on the project website.
He expects “around 150 million people” to vote in this year’s election, the “highest turnout since 1908 of those eligible to vote.”
That number of early ballots cast so far represents 3.7% of the total national voter turnout in 2016. Some states, however, have recorded a larger percentage of early voters.
In South Dakota, 86,386 ballots have been cast as of Wednesday, or 22.8% of the state’s total voter turnout in 2016. In swing state Wisconsin, 545,349 people have voted, or 18.3% of the state’s total 2016 turnout. Virginia has recorded 769,708 ballots cast, representing 17.9% of its total 2016 turnout.
Flordia has seen the largest turnout by far with nearly 950,000 ballots cast so far.
Swing state Michigan and battleground state Minnesota have also recorded hundreds of thousands of ballots—Minnesota with more than 336,000 and Michigan with nearly 524,000.
McDonald said he “expected some things to be different since states changed their laws” to accommodate voters amid the pandemic. McDonald added that “70 million mail-in ballots [are] expected to go out to voters” ahead of Nov. 3.
“People did not have to take advantage of this,” he said of mail-in ballots and early voting. But many people already have.
Ballot data is unavailable across much of the West Coast, including California and Arizona, and in some states along the East Coast, including New York. California, however, has recorded the highest number of mail ballot requests at nearly 21 million compared to Florida’s 5.4 million.
An employee of the Philadelphia Commissioners Office examines ballots at a satellite election office at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
Democrats have requested more than 21.6 million ballots while Republicans have requested 12.6 million — a more than 9 million ballot request lead based on data from states reporting party registration including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Flordia, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Utah.
Those ballot requests by party, however, may not be an accurate indicator of final election results, McDonald’s frequently asked questions page on the Elections Project website.
“Just because registered Democrats are leading Republicans in early voting, that does not mean the Republicans will not make up ground on Election Day,” McDonald wrote, adding that “registered Democrats typically lead Republicans during early voting, and Republicans vote on Election Day, a pattern that persists across many states and elections.”
McDonald shared two possible scenarios for this year’s voter outcome.
“The first is that many voters…have successfully flattened the curve on mail-in ballots, meaning election officials will be able to more accurately process ballots,” he said. “The typical pattern is: We usually don’t see this rush at the beginning…early voting numbers are small and pick up closer to Election Day.”
The second scenario, he said, is the U.S. “following a typical pattern, and as Election Day appears, we’ll see unprecedented [in-person] turnout for the election.”
Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, D.C., Hawai’i, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey and Utah sent mail-in ballots to every registered voter as an alternative to voting in person during the COVID-19 crisis.