With nine days before election day, more people have already cast ballots in this year's US presidential election than voted early or absentee in the 2016 race.
The start of in-person early voting in big states has led to a surge in turnout in recent days. The opening of voting locations in Florida, Texas and elsewhere has piled millions of new votes on top of the mail ballots arriving at election offices as voters try to avoid crowded places on November 3 during the coronavirus pandemic.
The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that were cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.
Democrats have continued to dominate the initial balloting, but Republicans are narrowing the gap. GOP voters have begun to show up, a sign that many heeded President Donald Trump's unfounded warnings about mail-voting fraud.
On October 15, Democrats registrants cast 51 per cent of all ballots reported, compared with 25 per cent from Republicans. On Sunday, Democrats had a slightly smaller lead, 51 per cent to 31 per cent.
The early vote totals, reported by state and local election officials, are an imperfect indicator of which party may be leading. The data only shows party registration, not which candidate voters support. Most GOP voters are expected to vote on election day.
Analysts said the still sizable Democratic turnout puts extra pressure on the Republican Party to push its voters out in the final week and, especially, on November 3. That's especially clear in closely contested states such as Florida, Nevada and North Carolina.
"This is a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation," said John Couvillon, a Republican pollster who tracks early voting closely. "They're showing up more," he added, but "Republicans need to rapidly narrow that gap."
"At some point, Republicans have to vote," said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist. "You can't force everyone through a vote centre on election day. Are you going to expect all those Republicans to stand in line for eight hours?"
Campaigns typically push their voters to cast ballots early so they can focus scarce resources chasing more marginal voters as the days tick down to election day. That usually saves them money on mailers and digital ads — something the cash-strapped Trump campaign would likely want — and minimises the impact of late surprises that could change the race.
Trump's campaign has been pushing its voters to cast ballots early, but with limited success, delighting Democrats. "We see the Trump campaign, the RNC (Republican National Committee) and their state parties urging Trump's supporters to vote by mail while the President's Twitter account says it's a fraud," Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analyst, said on a recent call with reporters. "The Twitter account is going to win every time."
But Bonier warned that he does not expect a one-sided election. "There are signs of Republicans being engaged," he said. "We do expect them to come out in very high numbers on election day."
That split in voting behaviour — Democrats voting early, Republicans on election day — has led some Democrats to worry about Trump declaring victory because early votes are counted last in Rust Belt battlegrounds. But they're counted swiftly in swing states such as Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, which may balance out which party seems ahead on election night.
Some of the record-setting turnout has led to long lines at early-vote locations and there have been occasional examples of voters receiving mail ballots that are incorrectly formatted. But on a whole, voting has gone relatively smoothly. With more than one-third of the 150 million ballots that experts predict will be cast in the election, there have been no armed confrontations at polling places or massive disenfranchisement that have worried election experts for months.
The strong share of new and infrequent voters in the early vote is part of what leads analysts to predict more than 150 million total votes will be cast and possibly the highest turnout in a US presidential election since 1908.
"There's a huge chunk of voters who didn't cast ballots in 2016," Bonier said. "They're the best sign of intensity at this point."