2020 election sees record high turnout with at least 159.8 million votes projected

Miami Shores voter Mary Kay Paterno (Center) waits in line along with a few dozen voters as doors open on Election Day morning, November 3, 2020 at the C. Lawton McCall Community Center.

Emily Michot | Miami Herald | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

At least 159.8 million Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election, according to NBC News projections Wednesday morning.

The projected vote total marks a record high number of ballots cast in a presidential election and the highest voter turnout rate among eligible citizens since 1900.

With 86% of the expected vote tallied as of 9:00 a.m. ET, NBC News projects that Democratic candidate Joe Biden received more than 68.6 million votes, President Donald Trump received more than 65.9 million votes and other candidates received more than 2.1 million votes. At least 23 million votes have yet to be tallied, NBC News estimates.

The projected 159.8 million cast ballots represent the highest number of voters in a U.S. presidential election in history. In 2016, the total stood just above 136.6 million votes.

Around 239.2 million Americans were eligible to vote in 2020, according to the U.S. Elections Project. NBC News’ projected 159.8 million ballots cast in 2020 would constitute about a 66.8% voter turnout rate among eligible citizens — the highest since 1900.

The record voter turnout in 2020 was buoyed by more than 100 million ballots cast during the early voting period, according to data from the NBC News Decision Desk and TargetSmart, an analytics firm.

The number of ballots cast in 2020 by mail or in person before Election Day more than doubled that of 2016.

Overall, Democrats had an early vote advantage heading into Election Day with 43% of early or absentee votes compared with Republicans’ 37%. While more Democrats than Republicans voted early by mail, more GOP voters cast ballots early in person than Democrats.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many states expanded mail-in and in-person early voting, seeing huge dividends in voter turnout. Texas led early voting with at least 9.6 million votes cast before Election Day, according to NBC News and TargetSmart data.

No winner has been called yet in the 2020 presidential election as key states continue to tally votes.

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