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Early-voting numbers: Over 100 million turned out before Election Day

In 2016, 47 million Americans cast ballots before Election Day. By Oct. 22 of this year, that record was broken, and by Nov. 3 it was shattered.

In several states, early ballots exceeded the total number of votes cast in 2016. Motivated Americans turned out in person and by mail to ensure their ballots were counted amid a pandemic.

[2020 turnout is on pace to break century-old records]

In the earliest days of voting, registered Democrats outvoted Republicans roughly three-to-one in battleground states that provide partisan breakdowns. As Election Day neared, however, that gap narrowed.

Republicans were more likely to tell pollsters they intended to vote in person.

More voters than ever before could vote by mail this election. While some western states have long conducted their elections by mail, others, such as New Hampshire, allowed all voters to cast ballots by mail for the first time. Several key states, including Wisconsin, Arizona and Iowa, greatly expanded mail-in voting.

By the end of September, requests for absentee ballots had already surpassed 2016 levels in nearly every state. In 10 states, voters were automatically sent a mail-in ballot. Voters also took advantage of in-person early voting, with a record-breaking number showing up on the first day of early voting in some states.

[The battleground states that might count election results the slowest]

In Texas, which added a week to early voting but maintained mail-in ballot restrictions, votes were largely cast in-person. The battleground surpassed total 2016 voting on Oct. 30, four days before Election Day.

This year’s general election followed high turnout in the primaries, including in battlegrounds such as Wisconsin. And it comes two years after 2018 shattered turnout records for a midterm.

For states where early ballots can be matched against a voter file, nearly 1 in 4 votes came from someone who did not cast a ballot four years ago in the same state.

Despite weeks of campaigning and news in the lead-up to Nov. 3, a large share of Americans had not just made up their minds — they had sealed in their vote.


Oct. 20, 5:55 p.m.: Due to a data provider error, in-person early vote totals were being doubled in North Carolina and Virginia, inflating the states’ overall count.

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