Early US voting surges, bringing tally to 45 per cent of 2016 vote more than a week before Election Day

Robert Delaney
·3-min read

Early voting in the US presidential election is surging, with a tally of 61.3 million votes by Monday amounting to nearly half of the 2016 total cast more than a week before Election Day.

Some of the highest turnouts are emerging in battleground states including Florida, Georgia and North Carolina – where the percentages reached 62.8 per cent, 66.1 per cent and 66.5 per cent, respectively – according to US Elections Project, a database maintained by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

Early, in-person voting in a presidential election is new for some states, including New York, which began its first ever for a presidential election this weekend. But it has been spurred by the need to maintain social distancing amid a pandemic that remains out of control in many parts of the US.

Divisions between President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden, fuelled to a degree by their differences over how aggressively the federal government should be trying to rein in the contagion that, according to Johns Hopkins University, has killed about 225,000 Americans, has helped to polarise the US electorate.

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday. Photos: AFP
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday. Photos: AFP

Voting stations in New York City, for example, were marked by long voter queues, some of which snaked around entire city blocks.

“Right now we’ve got a problem,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said about the long waits. “The Board of Elections was clearly not prepared for this kind of turnout, and needs to make adjustments immediately … Long lines tell people to go home.”

As of midday Monday, after just two days of early voting, the ballots cast in New York State represented 5.4 per cent of the state’s entire 2016 total, according to the US Elections Project.

Texas, a Republican stronghold where Trump leads Biden in opinion surveys, has emerged as the front-running state for early voting, already at 81.9 per cent of its 2016 total.

That lead is largely owing to a compromise that allowed voting stations to open last week, before early voting started in many other states, after a state supreme court decision blocked widespread mail-in voting.

Voters complete their ballots at socially distanced privacy booths at an early voting site Monday inside the Bismarck Event Center as the coronavirus outbreak continues in North Dakota. Photo: Reuters
Voters complete their ballots at socially distanced privacy booths at an early voting site Monday inside the Bismarck Event Center as the coronavirus outbreak continues in North Dakota. Photo: Reuters

Trump won Texas by 9.2 percentage points in 2016 over the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and enjoys a 4 percentage point lead over Biden, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll published on Monday.

Nationally, the Times/Siena poll shows Biden leading Trump by about 9 percentage points.

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