More Than 30 Million Mail Ballots Still Outstanding With Only One Day Until Election

With just a day to go before the election, more than 31 million mail ballots remain outstanding.

More than 94 million ballots have been already been cast in the 2020 election as of early Monday morning, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which tracks the early vote closely.

Almost two-thirds of those early votes were cast by returning mail ballots (59,961,024) while 34,045,137 were in-person votes.

But the data also shows that 31,385,941 mail ballots are yet to be returned.

Not all states report party affiliations, but those that do include key battleground states Pennsylvania and Florida. Among the states reporting party registration, far more Democrats have returned mail ballots than Republicans ahead of November 3, but they also have more outstanding mail ballots.

According to the data, 8,096,924 Democratic mail ballots remain outstanding, compared to 5,646,271 Republican mail ballots.

#earlyvote day-end update 11/1

At least 94 million people have voted in the 2020 general election 🥳

— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) November 2, 2020

Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs the project, wrote Sunday that the number of unreturned mail ballots may be a source of concern to Democrats.

But he noted that as there were many unknowns, it is "difficult to take the numbers at face value."

The number of outstanding mail ballots could be an over-count as some are in transit or could be at election officers, but not yet entered into databases, he wrote.

McDonald also noted that some states continue to accept mail ballots if postmarked by Election Day. These include the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, where mail ballots will be counted if received up to three days after November 3.

McDonald also said it is unclear how election officials manage the data for voters who requested a mail ballot, but later decided to cast their vote in-person.

He added data could be under-counting the actual number of outstanding mail ballots because some states, including Texas, don't report mail ballot applications or the number of mail ballots sent out.

Voters fill out their ballots at an early voting center at the Mount Vernon Governmental Center on October 31, 2020 in Alexandria, Virginia. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Some states do not differentiate between mail ballots and in-person votes. McDonald said the mail ballot return rate is "too high in states where in-person votes are co-mingled with mail ballots," but this doesn't affect the total number of outstanding mail ballots.

"Election officials in many states have never had to process so many mail ballots, so reporting delays and inconsistencies in reporting are understandable," he wrote.

"When there were only tens of thousands of mail ballots statewide in some of these states, it was relatively easy to process the ballots and no one really cared about the few where someone may vote in-person.

"Increase the workload by two orders of magnitude, and delays will happen. Add to this the uncertainties with the post office driving more people to decide to vote in-person. We're making do in tough times with a poorly-funded election infrastructure in many places."

But on balance, McDonald said he believes more mail ballots have been returned than reflected in his data. "How many, I cannot say," he added.