If this last week has proven anything, it's that the race is far from over even in the final days before Election Day. A lot can happen in the final weeks of an election to sway voters, like the announcement by FBI Director James Comey that the agency was looking into another batch of Hillary Clinton's emails, a surprising twist that swept headlines. New details emerge almost daily about the two presidential candidates. Yet for some people it doesn't even matter. Millions of Americans have already cast their votes, and early voting is more popular than ever in 2016.
Absentee ballots exist to allow people who will not be in their home voting district on Election Day to still be able to participate in the election. But aside from absentee ballots, some states allow another form of early voting, giving citizens the option to cast their ballots as much as six weeks before Election Day.
This year, 37 states and D.C. opened their polling places anywhere from four days to six weeks prior to Election Day. And as of a week before the election, more than 30 million votes had already been cast. Estimates said that 40 percent of the final votes could be cast prior to Election Day, up more than eight percentage points from the 2012 election.
This is a record number of early voters; the percentage of people voting early has tripled over the past 20 years. But not all states allow early voting; it is a trend that primarily splits the country by region. All but one of the states west of the Mississippi River allow early voting, while most of the eastern half of the country has been slower to adopt the practice.
The current early voting polls show the race remains tight, with each candidate leading in different battleground states. However, some say that early voting results are not always a good indicator of how the election will go. For it to be a proper prediction, the smaller group of people who voted would have to have the same political ratio of the general populace. Some analysts say that in recent elections, Democrats have utilized early voting more than Republicans, which would obviously skew the early results.
While the votes continue to come in, we will just have to wait until Nov. 8 to see if the early voters had any prediction as to final results.