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Experts predict record election turnout as more than 6.6 million ballots cast in early voting tally

Experts predict record election turnout as more than 6.6 million ballots cast in early voting tally
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Less than a month before Election Day, more than 6.6 million Americans have already cast their ballots, more than 10 times the number who had at this same time in 2016, according to data released Thursday by the United States Elections Project

The numbers from the group, which tracks early voting data, show that even with weeks to go until Nov. 3, an unprecedented number of people have already decided their choice between President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE and Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE

“We’ve never seen this many people voting so far ahead of an election,” Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, who administers the project, told Reuters

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He added that the huge shift could be attributed to the expansion of early and mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as an eagerness to vote among both the president’s most fervent supporters and those who strongly oppose a second Trump term. 

McDonald explained that while the rate of early voting tends to decrease as Election Day nears, some states have already experienced sharp increases in voter participation. 

According to Reuters, McDonald predicts that total voter turnout in the 2020 election will reach 150 million, or 65 percent of eligible voters. This would be the highest it has been in a general election since 1908.

As of Thursday, Democrats had returned approximately 1.4 million ballots nationally, compared to 633,742 among registered Republicans, according to Elections Project data. Florida currently has the highest number of people who have already voted at almost 1.2 million, followed by Michigan at 824,525 and Virginia at 822,839. 

Most national polling shows Biden with an overall lead over Trump. A CNN-SSRS poll published Tuesday revealed that after last week’s first presidential debate, 57 percent of voters said they supported Biden, compared to 41 percent for Trump. 

The RealClear Politics national polling average for surveys conducted from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7 showed that Biden has an almost 10 point advantage over Trump. 

However, Biden faces greater challenges in key battleground states where the margins between the two candidates are much smaller. 

A Reuters-Ipsos poll released Wednesday found the former vice president ahead of Trump in Florida by only 4 percentage points, with Biden leading Trump by a 2-point margin, 48 percent to 46 percent, in Arizona.