Five Days Until Election, Nearly Twice as Many Democrats Have Returned Their Mail Ballots as Republicans

Almost twice as many Democrats have returned their mail ballots compared to Republicans, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

With five days to go until Election Day, more than 76.5 million ballots have been cast so far—more than half the total number of votes cast in the 2016 election.

Slightly more Republicans have cast in-person votes so far (3,511,359 for Republicans compared to 3,115,299 for Democrats), but when it comes to returning mail ballots, Democrats are ahead by far.

Not all states report the party affiliations of those voting early, but those that do include key battleground states Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

According to the data, 28,803,848 mail ballots have been returned as of early Thursday morning. Of those, 7,445,359 are from Republicans compared to 14,509,626 from Democrats.

However, Democrats also requested mail ballots in greater numbers than Republicans meaning more mail ballots from Democrats have yet to be returned.

Democrats have 10,382,132 mail ballots outstanding while Republicans have 7,313,731 yet to be returned. So far, Democrats have a return rate of 58.3 percent, compared to 50.4 percent for Republicans.

Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs the project tracking early voting statistics, called the numbers "stunning" in a recent analysis of the data.

"Nationwide, voters will not only be sent an unprecedented number of at least 87 million mail ballots, but they are returning them sooner than in past elections," McDonald wrote on October 25. He said the pace of early voting in some states indicates they could surpass their total 2016 vote this week.

He added that Democrats have a "huge advantage" in mail ballot requests, and mail ballot return rates. "These national numbers for the states with party registration are reflected in every party registration state; they are not just an artifact of heavily Democratic large states like California conducting all-mail ballot elections," McDonald wrote.

But he cautioned that Democrats may have more ballots outstanding than the figures show as they only reflect states that report party registrations.

McDonald noted that more Republicans need to vote in-person to "make up ground" on Democratic mail voters, whether early or on Election Day.

"There is still some play left in the in-person early vote, but time is starting to run short such that Republicans will need to rely heavily on Election Day vote, which has traditionally been a strong day of voting for Republicans in recent elections," he added.

Mail ballot
Election workers extract mail-in ballots from their envelopes and examine the ballot for irregularities at the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorders' mail-in ballot processing center at the Pomona Fairplex in Pomona, California, October 28, 2020. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images