WASHINGTON - Americans are voting early for next Tuesday’s presidential election in unprecedented numbers, a product of strong feelings for or against the two main candidates and a desire to avoid large crowds at Election Day polling stations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 75 million people have already voted six days ahead of the official election day, totaling more than half of the overall 2016 vote count, which was 138.8 million.
About two-thirds of the early voters have mailed in their ballots, and the rest voted in person at polling places throughout the country.
Voting experts say voter turnout for the contest between Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden could be the highest since 1908, when 65% of the country’s eligible voters cast ballots.
Trump, Biden and their respective running mates — Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris — are continuing to make their closing arguments to voters on Wednesday.
Focus on Arizona
Both Trump and Harris are campaigning in Arizona, the southwestern state along the Mexican border that Trump won in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Clinton en route to a four-year term in the White House.
But polls in the state, where no Democratic presidential candidate has won since 1996, now show Biden narrowly ahead.
The state has 11 of the 270 electoral votes that either Trump or Biden will need to claim the presidency and be inaugurated on January 20. U.S. presidential elections are decided in an indirect form of democracy in the 538-member Electoral College, not the national popular vote.
Typically, all of a state’s Electoral College votes go to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each of the 50 states, with the most populous states holding the most sway.
Trump is holding two afternoon rallies in Arizona, in Bullhead City and Goodyear.
Harris is meeting with Latina business owners in the morning in Tucson and later in the day with a group of Black leaders in the state’s biggest city, Phoenix. She is finishing her day with a speech at a rally where pop singer Alicia Keys is performing.
Biden briefed on virus
Biden, who has cast blame on Trump for the country’s world-leading coronavirus death toll of more than 226,000, is being briefed by public health experts on the pandemic and then delivering remarks on his plans to curb the spread of the virus. Later, he is attending a virtual campaign fund-raising event.
Trump this week has continued to assert the country has “rounded the corner” in dealing with the virus, even as the number of U.S. infections is surging.
Pence is holding rallies in two key Midwest states, Wisconsin and then Michigan, that Trump captured in 2016 but where he now trails Biden.
National polls typically show Biden with a 7- or 8-percentage point lead over Trump, but with about half that margin in key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome in the Electoral College.