Their enthusiasm reflected in post boxes stuffed with mail-in ballots and by hours-long queues at voting sites across the country, by early Sunday almost 60 million Americans had cast a vote in the presidential election, even as the candidates scrambled to deliver their closing message more than a week before election day, 3 November.
The vast numbers of early voters in the most consequential election in generations is fuelling what promises to be record-shattering turnout. Not since 1908 have more than 65% of eligible US voters actually exercised that right.
Behind the eye-popping headline figures lie clues to why voters are so engaged, so early. Democrats hold a sizeable advantage in the early returns. The reason, analysts believe, is simply Donald Trump, and by extension his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected 8.5 million people and killed 224,000.
“The pandemic is part of it, particularly for older voters,” said Dr Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “I’m pushing 70 myself, and it has to be a part of your calculations, we’re kind of vulnerable.
“But to me, that doesn’t explain the lines. People really have bought into the understanding that if this isn’t the most important election we’ve ever had, it’s one of several. People are determined to express themselves and we all know why: Donald Trump. That includes his base: the cult is going to support the cult leader. But there are more, maybe quite a bit more, who want to end this nightmare. And that’s the way people put it. If you don’t like the word I’m sorry – that’s just the way it is.”