With just 21 days to go until Election Day, almost 12 million Americans have already voted, according to data compiled by the US Elections Project as of Tuesday afternoon.
The figure, which includes both ballots cast in-person and absentee or mail-in ballots returned to local elections offices, comes as more states open early voting locations and the window for registering to vote closes in others.
While the total number of ballots cast across the country so far represents just 8.6% of the 2016 total turnout, the number of people who have voted in Vermont so far — 95,885 — account for nearly 30% of the state’s total turnout in the 2016 general election, according to the data from the University of Florida-run project.
In Wisconsin, Virginia, and South Dakota, that figure is at almost 25% of 2016 levels.
In Georgia, where a record number of 128,590 ballots were cast on the first day of early voting Monday — a more than 40% increase from 2016 — the high turnout has led to long lines and hourslong waits for people to vote.
On Tuesday, Gwinnett County’s website listed a wait time of eight hours for the county elections office, one of nine early voting centers. Joe Sorenson, a spokesperson for the county, told BuzzFeed News that was just an estimate and that the true wait peaked at six hours Tuesday at the location, citing continued slowdowns with the state’s voter registration and a relatively high number of people waiting in line before the office opened this morning. As of 5 p.m., when the site was set to close, a little over 100 people were still in line to vote, Sorensen estimated, adding that it would take about an hour to clear through. On Monday, people were still voting there until a little after 9 p.m., he said.
Elections experts have said that the hourslong waits voters experienced in Georgia on Monday were unacceptable, but that they did not necessarily indicate voter suppression despite concerns to that effect. Instead, they said high voter enthusiasm may be a cause.
Tuesday was the first day of in-person early voting in Kentucky and Texas, where voters experienced long lines and opening day voting records were shattered early in the day.
While 21 states and the District of Columbia allow people who miss the deadlines to register and vote on the same day, the window to register for the 2020 general election closed Tuesday in Kansas, Oregon, West Virginia, and Virginia, where online voter registration was unavailable for hours because most of the state’s internet was cut off after a cable was accidentally severed.
Registration ended last week in many other states, including Georgia, Florida, and Arizona.
In an interview with NPR in late September — when almost 1 million votes had been cast — Elections Project Director Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida, said the turnout at that time was “unprecedented.”
“We’ve never seen this number of people cast ballots so early in the election,” McDonald told NPR.
He explained that a number of factors likely contributed to the high turnout in early voting, including changes to state election laws that have expanded voting options because of — but also independent of — the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve seen many people requesting mail ballots and voting in-person early in order to socially distance,” McDonald said. “The other big factor, though, that’s going on here is that there are lots of people who really are enthused to vote, and they’re casting their ballots early.”