RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s elections chief said last month that “Virginia has clearly embraced no excuse voting,” when data showed that a little more than 200,000 people in the commonwealth had voted early in person and nearly a million had requested an absentee ballot.
Just weeks later, those numbers have swelled to an astonishing number: 2,172,997.
Early voting in Virginia has surged since Sept. 18, the day it was first allowed, after a new law permitting no-excuse absentee voting went into effect in July. As of Oct. 23, more than 1.7 million Virginians have already voted in this year’s election, a figure that represents more than 43 percent of the 3,984,631 total votes counted in Virginia in the 2016 election.
Virginia’s Department of Elections has reported more than a million people have voted early in person and just over 725,000 have returned their mail-in ballots. The total number of absentee ballots cast in Virginia four years ago didn’t eclipse 600,000.
Early voting numbers have hit unprecedented levels across the country, with 52,094,843 Americans already voting in the 2020 Election, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a website tracking early turnout figures in each state. In Texas, more than 6.3 million ballots have already been cast, 71 percent of the state’s total in 2016.
These figures indicate how eager voters in the country are to return their ballot early and the enthusiasm for this election season.
The site also tracks total votes by party registration — data that some states but not Virginia provides. The U.S. Elections Project shows that 11,806,276 early voters are registered Democrats, 6,341,695 registered as Republicans and 5,178,431 with no party affiliation.
While these numbers may reflect an advantage for Democrats across the country, it cannot guarantee one. Individuals who backed a particular political party in the past can vote for another party in 2020.
The nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project is also tracking early voting totals in the commonwealth, with a graph showing the shift in early voting from 2016 to 2020 by congressional districts. Each district has seen a noticeable spike, with some have 175,000 more early voters than in the last presidential election.
In Virginia’s 7th Congressional District race, where Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) are facing off, 176,217 more people have voted early compared to 2016. Apart from the 9th District, all of Virginia’s congressional districts have seen six-figure increases.
In Henrico, a key county in the race for the 7th District, more than 95,000 residents have either voted early or requested an absentee ballot. That’s more than five times the 2016 total.
In the city of Richmond, where residents are voting for mayor and in nine City Council races, more than 55,000 have either voted early or requested an absentee ballot. In 2016, that total was less than 7,000.