More than 50 million Americans cast their ballots in the US presidential election by mail 11 days before the start of the race, a pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout in more than a century, according to data from the US Election Project.
This striking number is a sign of intense interest in the competition between Republican Donald Trump and Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, as well as Americans’ desire to reduce their risk of exposure to Covid-19, which has killed more than 221,000 people across the United States.
Several states have expanded early in-person voting and mail-in voting ahead of Election Day on November 3, as a safer way to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
The high level of early voting prompted Michael MacDonald, the University of Florida professor who directs the US election project, to forecast a record turnout of around 150 million, representing 65% of eligible voters, the highest rate since 1908.
In Texas, the voting level already exceeded 70% of the total turnout in 2016. In Georgia, some waited in line for more than 10 hours to cast their vote. Wisconsin saw a record number of early votes, with 1.1 million people returning to vote as of this week. Voters in Virginia, Ohio and Georgia also saw long queues at early voting sites.
The epidemic has upended the tradition of the campaign and its effects are still being felt. Americans may find themselves waiting days or weeks to find out who won, as election officials count tens of millions of votes in the mail. Democrats are encouraging supporters to vote early – either in person or by mail – amid concerns that the USPS may not have the ability to mail ballot papers to election officials on time.