A combination of a polarizing race for President and expanded voting options because of the Coronavirus outbreak has produced record levels of early voting in 2020, with a number of a states already heading towards forty percent of their total 2016 voter turnout.
“Voters are clearly interested in voting,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who tracks early voting patterns.
“We’re seeing record numbers in places like Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina,” McDonald said Saturday on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” McDonald said of the pace of early voting. “We’re running about 10 times the level that we did in 2016.”
McDonald’s effort - known as the U.S. Elections Project - shows Georgia has already hit 32 percent of its total turnout in 2016, with Texas at 30 percent, and key states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota all near that level as well.
Normally, early voting by mail is dominated by Republicans, but with President Donald Trump denouncing voting by mail - and urging his backers to show up on Election Day - Democrats right now have the early edge in terms of turnout.
Meanwhile, early in person voting - normally a big advantage for Democrats - is showing signs of strength for Republicans in some states.
“Everything seems to be topsy turvy,” McDonald said, as he argues the large early turnout can only help elections officials as they conduct an election during a pandemic.
While not every state breaks down voters by party registration, the early numbers show Democrats voting at a higher clip than Republicans so far in 2020 - and also requesting mail-in ballots at a much higher rate.
For example, in Florida, Democratic voters have asked for almost one half of all mail ballots, to just under 30 percent for Republicans - and Democrats are returning those ballots at a higher rate as well.
The margins are even more striking in North Carolina, where Democrats again have asked for almost half of the mail-in ballots - to just 18 percent for Republicans.
And Democrats in the Tar Heel State are also turning out in much higher numbers so far for early in-person voting in North Carolina, by a 44 to 29 percent margin over GOP voters.
As of Saturday morning, over 24 million people had already voted - but McDonald indicated you might need a scoreboard to keep track of what’s next.
“We’re adding about 3 million votes a day at this point,” McDonald said Saturday. “That’s unprecedented.”