More than 21.8 million total ballots cast as of Friday suggests a record turnout for this year’s race compared to the 1.4 million ballots that were cast at a similar time in 2016, according to data from the United States Elections Project.
“That’s unprecedented in a modern election in the United States,” Elections Project founder and University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald wrote on the project website.
He expects “around 150 million people” to vote in this year’s election, the “highest turnout since 1908 of those eligible to vote.”
That number of early ballots cast so far represents 15.7% of the total national voter turnout in 2016.
Ten states, however, have already reached more than 25% of their 2016 voter tunrout as of Thursday, including North Dakota (25%), Nebraska (25.2%), Texas (27.2%), Minnesota (30.7%), Wisconsin (26.4%), Michigan (26.7%), Georgia (27%), Virginia (29.7%), New Jersey (32.7%) and Vermont (38.8%).
Texas on Friday emerged with the largest voter turnout so far; more than 2.4 million Texans have cast ballots so far. California and Florida trail just behind with 2.38 million and 2.27 million ballots cast, respectively.
Swing state Michigan has also recorded more than a million submitted ballots; voter turnout reached nearly 1.3 million on Wednesday. Maryland, New Jersey and Georgia have also counted more than a million ballots.
McDonald said he “expected some things to be different since states changed their laws” to accommodate voters amid the pandemic. McDonald added that “70 million mail-in ballots [are] expected to go out to voters” ahead of Nov. 3.
“People did not have to take advantage of this,” he said of mail-in ballots and early voting. But many people already have.
Ballot data is still unavailable in some states, including Idaho, New York, Arkansas, Missouri and Connectciut. California, however, has recorded the highest number of mail ballot requests at more than 21.5 million compared to Florida’s 5.7 million as of Wednesday. Voters in Washington state have requested 4.6 million main-in ballots.
Democrats have requested 23.4 million ballots while Republicans have requested nearly 13.4 million — a 10 million ballot request lead based on data from states reporting party registration including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Flordia, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Utah.
Those ballot requests by party, however, may not be an accurate indicator of final election results, McDonald’s frequently asked questions page on the Elections Project website.
“Just because registered Democrats are leading Republicans in early voting, that does not mean the Republicans will not make up ground on Election Day,” McDonald wrote, adding that “registered Democrats typically lead Republicans during early voting, and Republicans vote on Election Day, a pattern that persists across many states and elections.”
McDonald shared two possible scenarios for this year’s voter outcome.
“The first is that many voters…have successfully flattened the curve on mail-in ballots, meaning election officials will be able to more accurately process ballots,” he said. “The typical pattern is: We usually don’t see this rush at the beginning…early voting numbers are small and pick up closer to Election Day.”
The second scenario, he said, is the U.S. “following a typical pattern, and as Election Day appears, we’ll see unprecedented [in-person] turnout for the election.”
Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, D.C., Hawai’i, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey and Utah sent mail-in ballots to every registered voter as an alternative to voting in person during the COVID-19 crisis.