(Headline USA) With nine days before Election Day, more people already have cast ballots in this year’s presidential election than voted early or absentee in the 2016 race as the start of in-person early voting in big states led to a surge in turnout in recent days.
Although Democrats were expected to dominate early voting, GOP voters have kept pace in many key battleground states, an ominous sign for the Biden campaign.
The opening of early voting locations in Florida, Texas and elsewhere has piled millions of new votes on top of the mail ballots arriving at election offices as voters try to avoid crowded places on Nov. 3 during the coronavirus pandemic.
The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that The Associated Press logged as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.
On Oct. 15, Democrats registrants cast 51% of all ballots reported, compared with 25% from Republicans. On Sunday, Democrats had a slightly smaller lead, 51% to 31%.
Analysts said the still sizable Democratic turnout puts extra pressure on the Republican Party to push its voters out in the final week and, especially, on Nov. 3. That’s especially clear in closely contested states such as Florida, Nevada and North Carolina.
“This is a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation,” said John Couvillon, a Republican pollster who tracks early voting closely. “They’re showing up more,” he added, but “Republicans need to rapidly narrow that gap.”
Republicans are expected to dominate in-person voting on Election Day, with even some Biden campaign strategists warning of a potential landslide. However, there are concerns that some blue-state governors may attempt to interfere with voting by declaring further lockdowns as many recently have begun to tout new COVID spikes.
“At some point, Republicans have to vote,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who tracks early voting on ElectProject.org. “You can’t force everyone through a vote center on Election Day. Are you going to expect all those Republicans to stand in line for eight hours?”
Trump’s campaign has been pushing its voters to cast ballots early, much to the chagrin of Democrat operatives.
“There are signs of Republicans being engaged,” said Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analyst, said on a recent call with reporters. “We do expect them to come out in very high numbers on Election Day.”
One sign of enthusiasm is the large number of new or infrequent voters who have already voted—25% of the total cast, according to an AP analysis of data from the political data firm L2. Those voters are younger than a typical voter and less likely to be white. So far similar shares of them are registering Democratic and Republican.
They have helped contribute to enormous turnouts in states such as Georgia, where 26.3% of the people who’ve voted are new or infrequent voters, and Texas, which is expected to set turnout record and where 30.5% are new or infrequent voters.
The strong share of new and infrequent voters in the early vote is part of what leads analysts to predict more than 150 million total votes will be cast and possibly the highest turnout in a U.S. presidential election since 1908.
“There’s a huge chunk of voters who didn’t cast ballots in 2016,” Bonier said. “They’re the best sign of intensity at this point.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press