More than 58.7 million Americans have voted in the 2020 presidential election so far, surpassing all early ballots cast in the 2016 polls, but an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots has given rise to the possibility that the result could be delayed as counting of votes may stretch beyond November 3, according to a media report.
The report in the CNN said that according to a survey of election officials in all 50 states and Washington DC conducted by the US-based network, Edison Research and Catalist, more than 58.7 million Americans have voted so far in the election, with still 9 days left for November 3.
The report said in 2016, around 58.3 million pre-election ballots were cast, including ballots in the three vote-by-mail states that year. That early vote accounted for about 42 per cent of all ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.
"Pre-election voting for the November election has surpassed all 2016 early ballots cast with 9 days left until Election Day," the report said.
"Pre-Election Day voting is skyrocketing nationwide amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and states are reporting record-breaking turnout as voters are energised to vote by mail or early in person before November,' it said.
There are more than 257 million people in the US who are 18 or older, and nearly 240 million citizens are eligible to vote this year, according to the American daily USA Today.
Another CNN report, however, noted that despite the unprecedented mail-in voting, there is a possibility that full results of who between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will win the Presidential election may not be known on election night.
"Election night can be synonymous with unpredictability - just look at 2016 - but this year might be even murkier than usual. The pandemic has changed the way millions of Americans vote for president," the report said.
While voters have already cast an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, in many locations, including potential battleground states, the mail-in ballots will not be counted until after the election, "potentially leading to long delays in the news media's ability to call the election on election night," it said.
CNN cited media experts to say that the counting could go longer than election night and "could last until the next morning or until the next afternoon or even later.
It said that 54 per cent of those 58.7 million votes already cast this cycle comes from 16 most competitively ranked states, which will play a crucial role in determining who wins the presidency this year.
Among those states, Minnesota has currently seen the largest percentage increase in early voting turnout compared to last cycle, according to Catalist data from both years in 14 key states.
The report added that younger voters (aged 18-29) are also casting significantly more ballots and make up a greater share of the pre-Election Day vote than they did around the same time four years ago in all of the key states with information available.
Across all 14 of these key states, voters below the age of 30 have seen upticks in their share of the early vote compared to this point in 2016, it said.
The report analyses the turnout in several key states that Trump had won by the narrowest of margins in 2016.
Trump had won Florida by a little over one percentage point in 2016 and capturing the state again this year is critical to his reelection prospects, it said.
The report added that 35 per cent of likely voters in Florida say they have already cast a ballot. Of that group, 71 per cent said they support Biden and 27 per cent back Trump. In North Carolina, Democrats are also outpacing Republicans in their percentage of the pre-election votes, but that margin is narrowing amid a surge in early voting.
The report said that about 40 per cent of the early votes that Catalist has analysed comes from Democrats compared to 30 per cent from Republicans so far.
In Pennsylvania, a crucial state that Trump won by less than one percentage point in 2016, Democrats continue to hold a significant advantage over Republicans in their share of ballots already cast, according to Catalist party data.
About 70 per cent of pre-election votes have come from Democrats so far, compared to about 20 per cent from Republicans, it said.