CORAL GABLES, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Nearly 30 million Americans have cast early ballots in November’s presidential election, shattering records as voters adjust to the coronavirus pandemic, including in Florida, a battleground state that on Monday opened polls to early voting.
More than 29.6 million votes either by mail or in person had been recorded in 44 states and Washington, D.C., as of mid-afternoon on Monday, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.
Voters have already cast more than 21% of the overall total in 2016, when more than 136.6 million Americans cast ballots. In 2016, there were 5.9 million early votes by Oct. 23, 16 days before Election Day.
“There is a combination of factors that are driving this,” Dr. Michael McDonald, U.S. Elections Project, told NewsNation Thursday. “One is just the supply. States were going to make available early voting options, especially mail ballots.”
Another factor is many voters’ desire to avoid the risks of the coronavirus associated with potentially long lines on Election Day. But it also appeared to reflect enthusiasm among Democrats in particular.
In states that publicly report the party registration of voters, nearly 54% of ballots came from registered Democrats, compared with 25% from Republicans.
“Voters are very enthusiastic to vote as well, and so we’re seeing voters taking advantage of the opportunity to vote and they’re just voting in droves, at levels we’ve never really seen before in American politics,” McDonald said.
Watch McDonald’s full interview with NewsNation from Oct. 15, 2020:
Social media posts showed lines of voters in some of the 52 of Florida’s 67 counties that began in-person early voting on Monday, suggesting similarly high levels of enthusiasm to vote as seen in other early voting states this year.
Hundreds of people, most wearing face masks, stood in pouring rain in the morning outside the public library in Coral Gables, a majority-Hispanic city near Miami.
Louis Perez, 57, an insurance fraud investigator, said he was voting for Biden because of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“He lied about it right from the beginning,” Perez, who is not affiliated with a party, said of Trump.
Registered Republican Antonio Sanchez, an architect who arrived in the United States from Communist Cuba and was also voting in Coral Gables, said he supported Trump because he “stands for freedom” and against socialism.
“My two daughters are doctors. I don’t think this could have happened anyplace other than America,” said Sanchez, 59.
Florida is widely seen as a must-win for Trump, whose path to victory becomes razor-thin if he loses the southern state. The state’s prize of 29 electoral votes is tied with New York for third most, behind only California and Texas, in the race for the 270 Electoral College votes that determine the presidential winner under the U.S. system.
An Oct. 10-12 NewsNation/Emerson College survey of Florida showed Biden with 50% of the support and Trump 47%.
Reuters contributed to this report.