| 10.8°C Belfast

17 million rush to vote early as US heads for record election turnout

Democrat enthusiasm and Covid fallout drive ballot stampede with a fortnight remaining

Close

Joe Biden (right) and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News

Joe Biden (right) and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News

Getty Images

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump

AP

Joe Biden (right) and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News

More than 17 million Americans have already cast ballots in the 2020 election - a record-shattering avalanche of early votes driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

The total represents 12% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, even as eight states are not yet reporting their totals and voters still have more than two weeks to cast ballots.

Americans' rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150m votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.

"It's crazy," said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who has long tracked voting for his site ElectProject.org.

Mr McDonald's analysis shows roughly 10 times as many people have voted compared with this point in 2016.

"We can be certain this will be a high turnout election," Mr McDonald said.

So far the turnout has been lopsided, with Democrats outvoting Republicans two to one in the 42 states included in a count by The Associated Press.

Overnight, President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden took part in separate but simultaneous meet-the-voter TV events.

They showcased striking differences in temperament, views on racial justice and approaches to the pandemic that has reshaped the nation.

Mr Trump was defensive about his government's handling of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 215,000 American lives, and evasive when pressed about whether he took a required Covid-19 test before his first debate with Mr Biden.

Angry and combative, he refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy group - and only testily did so on white supremacists.

The president also appeared to acknowledge he was in debt and left open the possibility that some of it was owed to a foreign bank.

He insisted he did not owe any money to Russia or any "sinister people" and suggested that being $400m (£312m) in debt was a "very very small percentage" compared to his overall assets.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden, appearing nearly 1,200 miles away, denounced the White House's handling of the virus, declaring that it was at fault for closing a pandemic response office established under former president Barack Obama.

Though vague at times, he acknowledged it was a mistake to support a 1994 crime bill that led to increased black incarceration and suggested he finally will offer clarity on his position on expanding the Supreme Court if Mr Trump's nominee to the bench is seated before election day.

The president, less than two weeks after being diagnosed with Covid-19, dodged directly answering whether he took a test the day of the September 29 debate, only saying "possibly I did, possibly I didn't".

The presidential rivals took questions in different cities on different networks: Mr Trump on NBC from Miami, Mr Biden on ABC from Philadelphia.

The odd spectacle deprived most viewers of a simultaneous look at the candidates just 19 days before the election.

Belfast Telegraph