More than 83 million Americans have cast early ballots, shattering records

With days to go before Election Day, more than 83 million Americans have already cast their ballots for the 2020 presidential election, demolishing previous records, according to numbers compiled as part of the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project.

More than 53 million mail-in ballots have been returned and over 29 million people have voted in-person as of Friday morning, according to the project’s tally. The 83,561,641 early votes cast so far equates to about 60% of the total voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, 47.2 million Americans cast early ballots ahead of the 2016 election.

Officials in Harris County, Texas, said Thursday that the number of ballots cast early had already exceeded the record-breaking turnout seen in the last presidential election. In 2016, 1,338,898 people voted, according to Houston Public Media. On Thursday night, officials said they had already received 1,344,915 ballots.

University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the U.S. Elections Project, said Friday that early ballots cast in Texas have already surpassed the total number of votes cast in the state during the 2016 election. As of Friday morning, more than 9 million people have voted in Texas.

On Thursday, McDonald said Hawaii became the first state to surpass its 2016 turnout numbers. As of Friday morning, more than 457,000 ballots have been cast in The Aloha State.

The high turnout numbers appear to reflect interest in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden and concerns about votes being counted amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, McDonald told NPR that the record-breaking pace set for early voting this year is “good news, because we were very much concerned about how it would be possible to conduct an election during a pandemic.”

“Instead, what appears to be happening is people are voting earlier and spreading out the workload for election officials,” McDonald said. “We’ve already passed any raw number of early votes in any prior election in U.S. history.”

In the 20 states that report party registration data, Democrats made up a bulk of early voters with 46.5% against the 29.8% of voters who identified as Republicans. McDonald told PBS' “NewsHour” on Tuesday that the numbers are similar to those seen in previous elections.

“Overall, the electorate is still very heavily Democratic in the early vote. And that’s what we have seen in prior elections as well,” McDonald said. “Election Day tends to be very Republican.”

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