Record-breaking early voting in US election tops 80 million

2020 Election

Stickers that read “I Voted By Mail” sit on a table waiting to be stuffed into envelopes by absentee ballot election workers at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2020. – The US election is officially open: North Carolina on September 4, 2020 launched vote-by-mail operations for the November 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which is getting uglier by the day.
Worries about the unabated spread of the coronavirus are expected to prompt a major increase in the number of ballots cast by mail, as Americans avoid polling stations. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — More than 80 million Americans have cast ballots in the U.S. presidential election, according to a tally on Thursday from the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, setting the stage for the highest participation rate in over a century.

The record-breaking pace, more than 58% of total 2016 turnout, reflects intense interest in the vote, in which incumbent Donald Trump, a Republican, is up against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, a former vice president.

Huge numbers of people have voted by mail or at early in-person polling sites amid concerns the coronavirus could spread at busy Election Day voting places.

Trump trails Biden in national opinion polls as most voters say they disapprove of the Trump administration’s handling of COVID-19, which has killed more than 227,000 people in the United States, with case numbers once again breaking daily records as Election Day nears on Tuesday.

Democrats hold a significant advantage in early voting due to their embrace of mail balloting, which Republicans have historically cast in large numbers but have shunned amid repeated and unfounded attacks by Trump, who says the system is prone to widespread fraud.

Experts have predicted turnout will easily surpass the 138 million who voted in the 2016 presidential election that Trump won. Only 47 million votes came before Election Day in 2016.

In 20 states that report party registration data, 18.2 million registered Democrats have already voted, compared with 11.5 million Republicans and 8.8 million with no party affiliation. The data does not show for whom the votes were cast.

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