With more than a quarter of the ballots processed, early returns show California Democrats are turning out in proportionately far higher numbers than Republicans and independents. 

About 32 percent of registered Democrats — upwards of 3.2 million — have already voted in the November general election, according to Political Data’s ballot tracker. In comparison, 23 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of independents have had their ballots processed as of Thursday evening. Nearly 650,000 more Democrats have voted than Republicans and independents combined. 

It’s a trend seen across the country, according to Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. McGhee said this election cycle experts are seeing “signs that the Democrats are more amenable to voting early and by mail than Republicans are.”

That might have to do with recent claims by Trump regarding absentee voting, McGhee said. The president has repeatedly and fraudulently characterized  mail-in voting as rigged while encouraging Republicans to vote in-person. McGhee expects Republicans will turn out in greater numbers come Nov. 3. 

“[My] guess is, the vote on Election Day itself is going to be very heavily Republican compared to the early vote,” he said. 

This year’s voting dynamic is a departure from the past. Traditionally, Political Data Vice President Paul Mitchell said, Republicans voted early and Democrats turned out late.

“Now people are saying ‘I’m a Democrat, so I’m going to vote by mail and early because Republicans are telling me not to,’” he said. “And Republicans are saying ‘I’m gonna vote late and at a polling place because my president is telling me that voting by mail is a scam.’ It’s a weird and new phenomenon.”

Democrats early voting lead in California doesn’t necessarily mean the party is winning the turnout battle against the GOP. More Californians are voting early than ever, but the turnout contest between the state’s two major parties will likely wait until after Election Day, according to McGhee. 

“I don’t think we can conclude anything in particular about the Democratic skew or total turnout from those facts just yet,” he said. “What we know for sure is that the number of people who are voting earlier is staggeringly high.”

Dylan Svoboda is a reporter at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Votebeat is a national media collaboration about the administration and integrity of, and issues regarding, the unprecedented 2020 election. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Dylan is a reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.