Americans are rushing to cast ballots ahead of the November election at an unprecedented pace, early voting numbers show, indicating a possible record turnout for the showdown between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden.
With four weeks to go before Election Day Nov 3, more than 3.8 million Americans already have voted, far surpassing about 75,000 at this time in 2016, according to the US Elections Project, which compiles early voting data.
The shift has been driven by an expansion of early and mail-in voting in many states as a safe way to cast a ballot during the coronavirus pandemic and an eagerness to weigh in on the political future of Trump, said Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, who administers the project.
"We've never seen this many people voting so far ahead of an election," McDonald said. "People cast their ballots when they make up their minds, and we know that many people made up their minds long ago and already have a judgment about Trump."
The early surge has led McDonald to predict a record turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of eligible voters, the highest rate since 1908.
Biden leads Trump in national opinion polls, although surveys in crucial battleground states indicate a tighter race.
The numbers reported so far come from 31 states, McDonald said, and will grow rapidly as more states begin early in-person voting and report absentee mail-in totals in the next few weeks. All but about a half-dozen states allow some level of early in-person voting.
Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, making unfounded accusations that it leads to fraud. Experts say fraud is rare.
A national Reuters/Ipsos poll taken last week found 5% of Democrats nationwide said they had already voted compared to 2% of Republicans. About 58% of Democrats planned to vote early compared to 40% of Republicans.
In the crucial battleground state of Florida, Democrats have requested more than 2.4 million mail-in ballots and returned 282,000, while Republicans have asked for nearly 1.7 million and returned more than 145,000.