Likely due in large part to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, more people have already cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election at this point than all those who voted early in 2016. With eight days left before Election Day, 58.6 million ballots have been cast this cycle, compared to 58 million four years ago.
Democrats have dominated the early voting, but indications are that Republicans have begun to narrow that gap. On Sunday, Democrats had a substantial edge in all ballots 51% to 31%, a margin that reflected a 6-point jump for Republicans since October 15.
The wide margin is not surprising to poll watchers, who note that Republicans historically vote in larger numbers on Election Day. Still, the impetus is on Republicans to get their voters out and to the polls.
"At some point, Republicans have to vote. You can't force everyone through a vote center on Election Day," University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald said. "Are you going to expect all those Republicans to stand in line for eight hours?"
Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analyst, expects they might.
"There are signs of Republicans being engaged," Bonier said during a conference call with reporters. "We do expect them to come out in very high numbers on Election Day."
Voter enthusiasm seems to be high this cycle, with roughly one-quarter of all the early votes cast coming from new or infrequent voters. To this point, those new or infrequent voters are registering almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.