Four more states on Friday began early in-person voting for the November 3 presidential election in the United States, bringing to six the number of states where early elections are now being held.
Voters began casting their in-person ballots for either Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden or the Republican bet, president Donald Trump, in Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming. They join voters from Alabama and Pennsylvania who began casting their in-person absentee ballots on September 14.
These six states will be joined by Michigan, New Jersey and Vermont on Saturday. Early in-person voting varies in each U.S. state and not all states allow this practice.
Early in-person voting without an excuse required is allowed in 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). Early in-person voting means voters can cast a ballot by appearing in person at a local elections office, or at another designated location, during a designated period before Election Day.
The turnout of voters in Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming has been unexpectedly heavy. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said interest in in-person early voting is "higher than it was in 2016."
"Today, both President Trump, and Joe Biden will be in Minnesota so that, I think, might add a little to the sizzle of today ... it's the first day of voting and the two people at the top of the ticket are both here in the state," noted Simon.
The longest lines were seen in Virginia where voters waited in line for hours because they no longer need a reason to cast an early ballot. Videos on TV news channels showed Virginia voters staying far apart and practicing social distancing
Voters in Virginia and Minnesota said they decided to brave the threat of COVID-19 to avoid the expected large surge of voters on Election Day. Many were also concerned about mail-in voting which president Donald Trump has repeatedly assailed as fraudulent.
Media stories are increasingly reporting many of these early voters are Democrats. A majority of Trump's supporters plan to vote on Election Day, while about half of Joe Biden's backers plan to vote by mail.
In some places, the number of people waiting to cast ballots exceeded the number seen in 2016, including a number of counties in South Dakota.
"We're expecting a lot of people," said Dayna Kiewel, deputy auditor at Pennington County to CNN. "In 2016, it was probably 100 in a day on the first day of early voting -- we've already bypassed that in just a couple of hours."
An election official in Fairfax County said they've never seen so many people on the first day of in-person voting.