Two weeks from Election Day, how do early voting numbers across US compare to 2016?

Bailey Aldridge
·4 min read

Election Day is two weeks away, and Americans are voting early at a record pace

As of Tuesday, at least34 million voters have already cast their ballots, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which is tracking early voting data. That number is based on data from all but four states — Idaho, New York, Missouri and Arkansas — which the project says haven’t reported numbers.

The project also says more than 83 million people have requested absentee ballots in a year where a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Texas has cast the most votes so far, with over 4.6 million, followed by California with more than 3.9 million and Florida with more than 2.9 million.

Others — including some key battleground states such as North Carolina and Ohio — have cast over 1 million.

How does this compare to 2016?

About 5.9 million Americans had voted early around this time in 2016, the U.S. Election Project wrote Sunday in its weekly data analysis.

The number of ballots cast in the 2020 election so far accounts for about 24.5% of all ballots cast in 2016.

And 2016 was also a record-breaking year for early voting, when about 40% of voters cast their ballots early, the elections project says.

While voting this year is on a record pace, the elections project says the ratio compared to 2016 has started to narrow. Last week, early voting numbers were about 6.5 times what they were at the same point in 2016 while this week they’re running at about five times that number, the project’s analysis on Sunday says.

“The ratio of 2020 early vote to 2016 early vote is going to come down simply because it is impossible that early voting is going to be six times what it was in 2016,” the analysis says.

Additionally, many states are now offering in-person early voting, which creates capacity issues.

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to process in one day six times the number of voters as in 2016,” the analysis says.

Who has voted?

Registered Democrats have accounted for 52.8% of of early votes cast so far in states with party registration data, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Republicans have accounted for 25.2%.

The data firm TargetSmart found about 51.3% percent of votes so far have been cast by Democrats while 38.4% have come from Republicans. Its data, however, found about 25.9 million have voted in the election as of Monday — varying from the U.S. Elections Project’s data.

TargetSmart’s numbers show partisan turnout is on track with its data from 2016, when 49.4% of early votes came from Democrats and 38.1% from Republicans.

Voters ages 50 and up have accounted for 70% of votes cast so far, according to TargetSmart’s analysis. Early voting tends to “trend older,” NPR reports.

Additionally, Black voters, long a key Democratic constituency, make up a larger share of voters so far in 2020 than in 2016, the analysis shows. Six times as many Black voters have cast a ballot compared to this time in 2016, NPR reports.

What could it mean?

Early voting numbers aren’t good indicators of the election outcome. Polling shows Republicans prefer to vote in-person on Election Day, CNN reports

Nate Silver, founder and editor-in-chief of poll analysis website FiveThirtyEight, said in an interview with ABC News the turnout comparison between Democrats and Republicans is what pollsters expected.

“Republicans could make up for that with a big turnout on Nov. 3 since 60% of them plan to cast a ballot on Election Day,” Silver said. “That should make the margin a lot closer. Though keep in mind that (President) Donald Trump significantly trails (Democratic nominee) Joe Biden in national polls.”

But the U.S. Elections Project says “Trump’s eggs are mostly in one basket” as his supporters are listening to his “rhetoric about mail ballot fraud.”

While states have looked to expand access to absentee voting during the pandemic, the president and other Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said without evidence that increased mail-in voting is a recipe for fraud and hurts his chances of reelection. He’s also sought to make it harder for the expected deluge of mail-in ballots to be processed, The Associated Press reports.

The project says it’s risky for Trump to depend solely on Election Day.

AccuWeather found that “difficult weather conditions” can especially impact swing voter turnout, McClatchy News previously reported. Also, long lines and technology issues have already posed a problem for early voters.

These issues coupled with COVID-19 complications could create “last minute chaos” for those voting in person, the elections project says.