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Early Voting on Track To Match 2018 Record

Voters take advantage of in-person and mail-in voting as more than 5.8 million people already cast their votes by Friday

Voting, by Jason Riedy (CC BY 2.0)

Early voting in the midterm elections is on track to match records set in 2018, according to researchers, as voters take advantage of both in-person and mail-in voting in states across the country.

More than 5.8 million people had already cast their vote by Friday evening, CNN reported, a similar total to this stage in the 2018 elections, which had the highest turnout of any midterm vote in a generation.

States with closely watched elections, including Georgia, Florida and Ohio, are among those seeing high volumes, with Democrats so far casting early votes in greater numbers.

Republicans, including Donald Trump, have encouraged their supporters to vote in person, citing a mishmash of debunked conspiracy theories about election security.

The New York Times reported that in-person turnout is up 70% in Georgia, where the incumbent Republican governor is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock, the Democratic US senator, is competing with Herschel Walker. As of Friday about 520,000 people had already cast their ballots during in-person early voting, according to Fox5 Atlanta.

In Ohio more than 943,000 people either voted or requested absentee ballots in the first week of early voting, the Columbus Dispatch reported, an increase of 2.7% over the numbers in 2018.

More than 186,000 ballots were cast in North Carolina on Thursday, the day early voting began, up from the 155,000 ballots cast at the same stage in 2018. CNN, citing the North Carolina State Board of Elections, reported that registered Democrats made up 42% of the vote, and votes cast by Republicans made up about 29%. Voters are not required to declare a party allegiance.

More than 122 million people voted in the 2018 midterms, the highest number since 1978. More than half of eligible Americans cast a vote in 2018 – up from just 42% in 2014 – as Donald Trump’s divisive presidency drove people to the polls.

Democrats have traditionally been more likely to vote early, and Associated Press reported that Republican activists have urged their voters to cast their ballot in-person on the day of the election.

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That could cause long lines on election day and lead to delays in counting the vote, which Republicans could point to as an example of a flawed process.

“It’s an opening for people to begin questioning and stoking mistrust and distrust,” Chris Piper, former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, told Associated Press.

In 2020 Republicans pointed to the delayed reporting of absentee and early voting ballots in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania as evidence that the election had been stolen from Trump. These claims have been repeatedly debunked, and are not true, but could resurface in November.