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With exactly three weeks until Election Day, early voting turnout both in person and via mail is far outpacing that of 2016. By Oct. 16 of the last presidential election, only about 1.4 million voters had cast a ballot.
The project, led by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, reports that Democrats are leading the historic surge of early voting. Out of 4.6 million mail ballots received, Democrats have cast around 2.6 million.
McDonald emphasizes that high turnout from Democrats thus far should not be interpreted as an indicator of final election results.
“Yes, the numbers are very good for Biden. The campaign has to be pleased since they can leverage the banked voters to more efficiently re-target their supporters who have not voted yet. However, it is very likely Republicans will show up in force to vote in-person,” McDonald wrote on the U.S. Elections Project website.
Over 46 million mail ballots requested across the country have yet to be returned.
“I predict in the coming weeks the Democratic narrative will change from euphoria over the apparent large leads in early voting to concern that a disproportionately large number of younger voters have yet to return their mail ballots,” McDonald wrote.
In-person early voting began Monday morning in Georgia and Tuesday morning in Texas, bringing high turnout and long lines.
NBC News reported on Monday that waits at Georgia voting sites lasted as long as 9 hours and 39 minutes. Counties in the state with large non-White populations in particular reported long lines, supporting research that shows race is a key indicator in how long a voter waits in line at a polling station.
Officials in Harris County, Texas’ most populous county, on Tuesday afternoon reported a record high first day of early voting with 68,000 ballots cast. And that was with five hours of voting still to go.
North Carolina, a key swing state, will begin in-person early voting on Thursday. The state uses a “one-stop” early voting model that allows eligible North Carolinians to register and vote at the same time.
The U.S. Elections Project data shows several states have already exceeded 20% of their total votes from 2016, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Virginia and Vermont.
Read More: Early voting in 2020 U.S. election already smashing 2016 levels