The early vote has overwhelmingly favored Democrats as 48.5% of all ballots are from registered Democrats, compared to only 28.7% from registered Republicans as of Monday, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project.
What the early vote tells us about the White House race is a “murky story,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who runs the U.S. Elections Project.
“People have changed the way they have voted. We knew that Democrats have disproportionately requested mail ballots. The net effect is that Democrats have a lead in the early vote. I expect that lead to persist to Election Day,” McDonald told MarketWatch. “Very typically though, we have seen in past elections that Election Day can be a very Republican day of voting.”
Large amounts of the early vote has come from three states: California, Texas and Florida. While California is a likely win for Democrats, Texas and Florida polls indicate a close race between Democratic challenger Joe Biden and Trump. Trump won Florida and Texas in 2016.
Texas’s early vote is at 81.9% of its total 2016 turnout, and Florida has already gotten to 62.8% of its total 2016 turnout, according the U.S. Elections Project.
Additionally, which states have large numbers of mail-in ballots may impact when the 2020 presidential race is called. This is because states have different rules for counting mail-in ballots. Of the roughly 66 million early votes so far, 44 million are mail-in ballots while 22 million are in-person votes.
Soren Jordan, a political science professor at Auburn University and member of its Election Administration Initiative, believes it could be a while before voters find out who won the Electoral College.
“There’s a bunch of variations for when those votes are allowed to be counted. Some states, it’s two weeks before the election, so that process is already under way, and some states, it’s on Election Day,” Jordan told MarketWatch. “Two of the biggest states in terms of the Electoral College math—Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—can’t start counting those ballots until Election Day. So, especially in those two states, it’s going to take a while probably to see a declared winner.”
While the abundance of mail-in voting would seem to ease the burden on polling locations, the evidence is still unclear. There has still been evidence of long lines at polling stations in states such as Maryland, New York, Ohio and Virginia.
Last week, Trump cast his ballot early and in-person in Florida. Trump changed his voter registration from New York to Florida in 2019.
Biden’s campaign has yet to make any announcements on whether the former vice president has voted already.
This is an updated version of a report first published on Oct. 26, 2020.