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Early voting numbers are truly astounding

It turns out Americans really, really wanted to vote before Election Day.

Early Voting For U.S. Presidential Election In Arlington
Americans have participated in early voting in record numbers this year.
Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

More than 97 million people have already cast ballots in the 2020 election — an early turnout record that shows this year’s election carries enormous weight with Americans.

In 11 states, the number of votes cast so far in 2020 is at least 90 percent of the total cast in the entire 2016 election.

About 24 hours before polls are set to close on Election Day, the number of votes cast was almost 98 million, about two-thirds of which came via mail-in ballots. The rest of the voters showed up at a polling place to vote in person. The early voting figure is just shy of 71 percent of 2016’s total numbers nationwide.

In some states, the early voting numbers have already cruised past 90 percent of 2016 total voting levels, including several key swing states or states with close Senate races: Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, and Georgia.

In Texas, early voting is even more of a success: Early voting now represents more than 108 percent of 2016’s total number. In Hawaii, the share is more than 110 percent.

It seems likely that 2020’s total voter turnout could be the highest in a century, with some forecasters projecting turnout as high as 65 percent of registered voters casting a ballot. And the reasons are clear to all — chiefly, the current occupant of the White House.

As Vox’s Jen Kirby and Rani Molla put it, “Enthusiasm among both Democratic and Republican voters is high. President Donald Trump is the reason: His supporters are extremely motivated to reelect their guy, and the other side is extremely motivated to vote him out.” Voters who wished to avoid a polling place also may have voted with absentee ballots, though those who went to early voting locations hoping to avoid a crowd during a pandemic may have been confronted with long lines.

These numbers are no crystal ball, however. Nobody knows who is going to win. There’s a strong possibility we won’t even know on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, either. But it is clear that Americans are highly motivated to make sure their vote is counted.