More than 14 million people in the United States have cast their vote early in the 2020 election, according to data compiled by the United States Election Project.
The figures includes both ballots cast in-person and absentee or mail-in ballots returned to local elections offices.
So far, ballots cast across the country represent just 10.2% of the 2016 total turnout. But in some states, including Georgia, voter turnout has broken records.
Early in-person turnout in Georgia on Oct. 12 surged more than 40 percent above the first day of early voting in 2016's November election. The state also saw record voter registration as of October.
States such as Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia and Florida have already reached 20% or greater than their 2016 total vote turnout, according to the U.S. Election Project.
With record-setting voter turnout as well as an ongoing pandemic comes other issues such as exceedingly long wait times for those who decide to cast their early vote in person.
Some voters in the Metro Atlanta area waited upwards of eight hours, getting to polling locations extra early in hopes of casting their vote within a reasonable timeframe.
Long lines were also reported at several Texas polling places across the state as early voting got underway.
Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, beat their 2016 numbers with more than 68,000 eligible voters casting their ballots on the first day of early voting.
Political scientists and experts believe the record-setting early voter turnout is due largely in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines, but energy among voters in a charged election plays a role as well.
Dr. Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida as well as the key researcher for the U.S. Election Project, believes the reason for this influx of early voters are three-fold:
“We've never seen this number of people cast ballots so early in the election. There are three driving factors here: One is simply that states have relaxed their laws. Maybe it was through changes that were already in place or as an emergency for the pandemic,” McDonald told NPR during the first week of early voting.
“And in the latter case, we've seen many people requesting mail ballots and voting in-person early in order to socially distance. 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,” McDonald said.