US set for record turnout as voters rush to cast early ballots

US set for record turnout as voters rush to cast early ballots

10/18/2020

Washington: Turnout for this year's US presidential election looks set to be among the highest in American history, with more than 26 million votes already cast two weeks out from election day.

In the highly competitive state of Texas, 3.4 million people have already voted, representing 38 per cent of the total votes cast in 2016.

Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting in Marietta, Georgia.Credit:AP

The surge in early voting reflects the enthusiasm many voters feel about participating in the election, concerns about election-day voting during a pandemic and the fact the vast majority of Americans long ago made up their minds about whether they prefer Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

Democrats have been returning their ballots at higher rates than Republicans, a welcome sign of enthusiasm for the Biden campaign but by no means a guarantee of victory on November 3.

Polls show Republicans are more inclined to vote on election day than Democrats this year, which could lead to a major divergence between the early vote tally and the election day results.

Parties are traditionally keen to bank as many early votes as possible as it allows them to target their resources on convincing more reluctant voters to participate in the election.

So far 25 per cent of Democrats who requested a vote-by-mail ballot have returned their ballot compared to 19 per cent of Republicans, according to the US Elections Project website.

University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the Elections Project website, has estimated that 150 million Americans could participate in the election, the highest voter turnout since 1908.

Voter enthusiasm has also been evident in the long lines at early voting sites around the country, with voters in states such as Georgia forced to queue for over eight hours in order to cast their ballot.

Wait times at many early voting sites reduced in the days after polling places opened.

The votes cast in Georgia, a traditionally Republican state that has become a battleground in this election, already represent 32 per cent of the 2016 total.

In the perennial swing state of Florida, the votes represent a quarter of the 2016 total.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said early voter turnout in her state was 24 times higher than it was four years ago.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said his state had set a record for early voting, with three times as many voters casting an early ballot than at the same stage in 2016.

Democrats have encouraged their supporters to vote-by-mail or vote early in-person while Trump has demonised postal voting by falsely claiming it is susceptible to widespread fraud.

Most voters in states such as Colorado, California and Oregon vote by mail and those states have not had significant problems with voter fraud in the past.

A Pew Research survey recently found that 83 per cent of Americans say this election "really matters", the highest recorded in 20 years.

A Gallup survey found that 67 per cent of Americans said they were more excited about participating in the election than normal, the highest figure on record.

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