By Chris Cillizza | October 15, 2020
More than 17 million ballots across 44 states and DC have already been cast in the 2020 election, a stunning testament to what could be a a historically high voter turnout fueled by a series of state law changes that allow more mail-in balloting with the coronavirus pandemic still gripping the country.
The state-by-state totals are massively over-running where the early vote was in the 2016 presidential race.
Here are a handful of vote comparisons in swing states, per CNN’s political unit:
Now: 2,092,1312016: 992,584
Now: 502,4622016: 226,824
Now: 918,8732016: 448,055
Now: 1,150,2242016: 369,721
Now: 592,5792016: 234,396
(Note: This voting information comes from CNN, Edison Research and Catalist — a data company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and non-profit issue advocacy organizations.)
In fact, in ALL of 2016, just over 46 million votes were cast early — whether in person or by mail. That means that, even though we are still 19 days from the election, more than one-third (37%) as many early votes have already been cast in 2020 as were cast in the entirety of the early voting in the 2016 presidential race.
These soaring numbers are backed up by what we are seeing in the states. On Monday in Georgia — the first day of in-person early voting –– some people waited in lines for as long as 11 hours to cast their ballot. In Texas on Tuesday, its first day of in-person early voting, thousands waited in long lines to have their voice heard. Early in-person voting begins in North Carolina on Thursday. (President Donald Trump will be in the state to rally supporters today.)
(A personal anecdote: In northern Virginia, I witnessed a line of nearly 100 people waiting to cast their ballots at a polling location at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday night, the first day of in-person early voting at 14 sites around the Commonwealth.)
That level of turnout is unbelievable. And the data suggests that it is Democrats driving the early vote rise. In the 23 states that report ballots cast by party identification, 55% of the returned ballots are from Democrats while just 24% are from Republican and 16% are from voters with no party affiliation.
In Florida, where the in-person early voting period begins October 19, there has already been a sea change in the party affiliation of those who have voted early by mail. As Politico’s Marc Caputo noted earlier this week:
“Republicans typically hold a slight edge in absentee ballot returns in Florida elections. But this year, there’s been a stunning development.”For the first time ever at this stage of a general election, Democrats here are outvoting Republicans — and by a mammoth 384,000-vote margin through Tuesday.”
What’s most fascinating is that while Democrats do typically lead in early vote numbers, it’s very rarely by these sorts of massive gaps.
According to Gallup polling data from earlier this month, more than 6 in 10 Democrats (62%) said they had either already voted or planned to do so before the election whether in-person or by an absentee ballot. Just 24% of Republicans said the same, a huge 38 point partisan gap that is wildly different than in past presidential elections.
In 2016, the gap was just 2 points: 44% of Democrats planned to vote early as compared to 42% of Republicans In 2012, 37% of voters in each party said they planned to vote early. In 2004, more Republicans (24%) than Democrats (22%) said they would cast a ballot before Election Day.That monumental shift is driven by two factors: the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s reaction to it. The pandemic, which appears to be ramping up again across the United States, has killed more than 219,000 Americans and sickened almost 8 million. Because of concerns about gathering in large groups indoors, many states have changed their election laws to allow no-excuse absentee voting. Trump’s reaction to that has been to suggest, with no evidence, that mail-in balloting is rife with fraud and to encourage his supporters to vote on Election Day in person. Which they seem, judging by the Gallup numbers, to be planning to do.
The problem here for Trump is obvious. Not only are the early vote numbers increasing by massive margins as compared to 2016, the numbers are heavily tilted toward Democrats. And remember this too: Everyone — Democrats, independents and Republicans — who have already voted or plan to do so in the weeks leading up to November 3 are doing so in a national political environment that is decidedly tilted against Trump. Even if the landscape somehow turns for Trump in the next 19 days, he may — given the avalanche of early votes — already be too far behind to make it up among voters on Election Day.