By John Lapinski, Stephanie Perry and Rezwana Uddin
Less than two weeks out from Election Day, more than 8 million people nationwide have voted early in the 2018 midterms.
The current nationwide total of early or absentee ballots counted — 8,156,995 — exceeds the 2016 total from two weeks before Election Day (Oct. 26, 2016) by over 200,000, according to data provided by TargetSmart and independently analyzed by the NBC News Data Analytics Lab.
Nationally (among all states with early voting activity so far), Republican-affiliated voters make up 44 percent of the early voting electorate and Democratic-affiliated voters make up 40 percent of the early voting electorate.
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Republicans are outpacing Democrats nationally, a change compared to two weeks out from Election Day in 2016 when Democrats were outpacing Republicans.
On Oct. 25, 2016, Democratic-affiliated voters made up 45 percent of the total early voting electorate and Republican-affiliated voters made up 38 percent of the total early voting electorate.
While the initial early vote numbers could be interpreted as a good sign for Republicans, they should be approached with caution.
For example, not much early and absentee vote has been reported yet in some Democratic strongholds, such as the West Coast.
Similarly, the 2016 comparisons provide some context but comparing the current election to previous cycles can never be an apples-to-apples comparison.
The candidates running, voting rules and changes in get-out-the-vote efforts are among the many caveats that should be considered when interpreting the data.
Data analysis conducted by the NBC News Data Analytics Lab. Voter file data, collected by TargetSmart, contains information on most voters’ turnout history and selected demographic information.