In a trend that's been building for a couple of decades, a growing number of states begin sending absentee ballots to voters well ahead of the November election – and roughly 40 of the 50 states allow for varying periods of early voting.
President Trump's reelection campaign – cognizant that the election actually gets underway in just over a month – is changing ad strategy and urging that the dates of the presidential debates be moved up – as the president trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden in public opinion polling in many of the key battleground states.
“More and more Americans vote early. It’s been a long time trend,” elections expert Michael Li told Fox News.
And with more and more Americans hoping to avoid casting a ballot on Election Day due to coronavirus health concerns over in-person voting at potentially crowded polling stations in November, a large increase in absentee voting and early voting is expected. There’s already been a massive surge in absentee balloting during primary elections this spring and summer.
Li, senior counsel at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program, emphasized that “in some states early voting will start in mid-September. The reality is that a lot of the election results will be baked in, and I suspect that more people this cycle will vote early because of health concerns about COVID.”
Eight states begin mailing absentee ballots to voters more than 45 days before the election. They are Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Another 15 states start sending out absentee ballots to voters 45 days before the election. Those states are Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
That means many voters in nearly half the states – including the key battlegrounds of Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, as well likely swing states such as Minnesota, Georgia and Texas – will receive absentee ballots before the calendar turns to October.
Separately, early voting or in-person absentee balloting gets underway in mid to late September in eight states, including the battlegrounds of Michigan and Minnesota.
“We want debates starting sooner,” Trump reelection campaign manager Bill Stepien said on Monday in an interview on "Fox & Friends."
Stepien, who took over as campaign manager last month following a shakeup of leadership, noted that the first presidential debate is scheduled for Sept. 29 and warned that the date was too late.
“By that time 16 states will already have been voting,” Stepien emphasized.
Separately, the Trump campaign resumed airing TV ads on Monday with what officials called a "smarter, more strategic" approach focused on early-voting states, after hitting pause on running commercials since last Wednesday in order to review their tactics.
“The countdown clock may show 91 days left in the race but, in reality, the election starts a lot sooner than that,” Stepien told Fox News. “In many states, more than half of voters will cast their votes well before Election Day and we have adjusted our strategy to reflect that.”
Fox News' Brooke Singman and Talia Kaplan contributed to this report.