US election: Early voting by mail or in person passes 30 million mark

More than 30 million Americans have already cast their votes ahead of November’s presidential election.

According to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, at least 30 million votes either by mail or in person had been recorded in 44 states and Washington DC as of Tuesday (Australian time).

Voters cast more than 21 per cent of the overall total in 2016, when more than 136.6 million Americans voted.

In 2016, there were only 5.9 million early votes by October 23, 16 days before election day.

Elsewhere, Floridians were lining up on the first day of their early polling in the US battleground state.

Social media posts showed lines of voters in some of the 52 of Florida’s 67 counties that began in-person early voting on Monday local time, suggesting similarly high levels of enthusiasm as seen in other early voting states this year.

Hundreds of people, most wearing face masks, stood in pouring rain in the morning outside the public library in Coral Gables, a majority-Hispanic city near Miami.

Florida is widely seen as a must-win for US President Donald Trump, whose path to victory becomes razor-thin if he loses the Southern state.

Mr Trump, running out of time to change the dynamics of a race he appears to be losing, campaigned in Arizona on Monday amid signs Democrats were leading the surge in early voting.

In a conference call with campaign staff, he showed characteristic self-confidence in describing the state of the race, notwithstanding national opinion polls show him well behind Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“We’re going to win,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have told you that maybe two, three weeks ago.”

Trump closes in on Biden’s lead

Mr Trump has appeared to cut into Mr Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania, one of the election’s most important battlegrounds.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday found Mr Biden leading 49 per cent to 45 per cent in that state, a margin three points narrower than last week.

It also found Mr Biden leading in Wisconsin 51 per cent to 43 per cent.

Across the country, the surge in early voting has been driven by voters’ desire to avoid the risks of the coronavirus associated with potentially long lines on November 3. It also appears to reflect enthusiasm among Democrats, in particular.

In states that publicly report the party registration of voters, nearly 54 per cent of ballots came from registered Democrats, compared with 25 per cent from Republicans.

Opinion polls show most Trump supporters plan to vote in person on the day, following months of unsupported claims by Mr Trump that absentee voting is unreliable.

Mr Biden and Mr Trump have a debate scheduled for Thursday, following Mr Trump’s decision to back out of last week’s planned debate.

It will feature a mute button to allow each candidate to speak uninterrupted. Organisers say the innovation will help avoid the disruptions that marred the first match-up.

The Presidential Commission on Debates said on Monday (US time) that each candidate’s microphone would be silenced to allow the other to make two minutes of opening remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate.

Both microphones will be turned on to allow a back and forth after that time.

The rule change follows Mr Trump’s repeated interruptions of Mr Biden during a chaotic and ill-tempered debate on September 29. Mr Biden responded with insults.

Mr Trump backed out of a second scheduled debate, set for last Thursday, over a disagreement about the virtual format. He initially rejected the plan to change the rules, saying he “easily won” the pair’s first encounter.

“Why would I allow the debate commission to change the rules for the second and third debates when I easily won last time?” Mr Trump tweeted.

The President’s campaign said on Monday it was unhappy with the proposed set of topics for Thursday’s debate.

The debate commission is a non-profit organisation established and funded by both main political parties.

-with AAP

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