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Almost 97 million Americans have cast early votes — nearly doubling the total from 2016

The NBC News Decision Desk estimates that early voting could hit 100 million by Election Day.
Image: Voters wait in line for a Houston Street polling site on the first day of early voting, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in New York.
Voters wait in line at a Houston Street polling site on the first day of early voting, Oct. 24, 2020, in New York.John Minchillo / AP file

As the United States enters the final day of early voting ahead of Election Day, almost 97 million Americans have already cast their votes — nearly doubling the 50 million who did so in 2016.

As of 5 p.m. on the East Coast, more than 96,900,000 voters have so far cast early ballots, according to data from the NBC News Decision Desk/Target Smart, a Democratic political data firm. The Decision Desk projects that number could approach 100 million by Tuesday.

With about 97 million votes already cast, the early vote total in 2020 represents roughly 71 percent of the total vote cast in all of 2016, when approximately 136.5 million ballots were counted.

All age demographics are seeing a marked increase in early voting in 2020 as compared to 2016, as states have sought to expand early and absentee voting in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, those who did not or could not vote in 2016 are skewing Democratic both nationally and in a majority of the key swing states.

Polling shows 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a large lead among early voters in key states, while President Donald Trump maintains a significant advantage among those who have yet to vote, according to polls.

Registered Democrats are leading registered Republicans in the early vote in critical states such as Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania while Republicans hold the edge in Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Much of the swing state-level polling shows independents breaking toward Biden.