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1.3 million have already voted, that's a 12,900% increase from this time in 2016

Even before Tuesday's first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, a crush of voters have already made up their minds, and are not wasting time.

Nearly 1.3 million people have already voted in the 2020 election, whether through in-person early voting or by returning a ballot by mail. According to the U.S. Elections Project, that number was approximately 10,000 this same time four years ago -- marking about a 12,900% increase.

The totals are based only on 15 states that have reported early voting, including battleground states Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.

It's not clear who these people are voting for, as results can't be revealed before election night.

Prof. Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who runs the U.S. Elections Project, says there are three key reasons for the unprecedented early vote. 


Voters want to avoid the crowds on Election Day, so they are voting early or by mail.


People are choosing to vote as early as possible. "The most likely explanation for this phenomenon is Donald Trump. Whether you love him or hate him, he inspires passion unlike any other political figure," McDonald writes.

State laws

Some states expanded their early voting access. One of these is Virginia, where more than 360,000 votes have already been cast. Most of those are in-person. And of the 1.2 million mail ballots requested there, more than 10% have already been returned.

In Wisconsin, more than one-quarter of requested mail-in ballots have been sent back already.

McDonald says he expects national turnout to be up for this election (he's predicted 150 million would vote this year compared to about 138 million in 2016).

Democrats are leading the way over Republicans in returned ballots, but McDonald says this should not be a predictor as to who will win the election. He says Republicans will show up in force on Election Day.

"Registered Democrats usually lead the early in-person voting, but I would not be surprised if more registered Republicans vote in-person early, as happened during Florida's August state primary," McDonald said.

RELATED: How did the US get the electoral college and how does it work?

RELATED: Why the presidential election could take a month or more to decide

Credit: AP
A man wearing a "VOTE" mask, waits at the back of a line stretching the equivalent of two football fields as hundreds wait in line for early voting at Fairfax County Government Center, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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