Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Photo: Axios

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said that Virginia and other states around the country have seen a "dramatic uptick" in early voting among those most likely to support Vice President Joe Biden during an Axios News Shapers event on Friday.

Why it matters: Early voting has taken on increased importance and use nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic with as many as 80 million people expected to cast their ballots before Election Day, whether by mail or in person.

What he's saying: "When people vote early, the parties get the information about whose ballots have been returned. Obviously, they don't get information about how the ballots have been cast, but we know whose ballots have been returned," Kaine told Axios' Mike Allen.

  • "And what parties do in Virginia and elsewhere is we give everybody a score statewide as to how likely they are to be a Democratic or a Republican voter."
  • "What we've seen in Virginia and elsewhere is just a dramatic uptick in votes for people who we would think would be, frankly, on the Democratic side, and that just is a suggestion of energy."
  • "We always look at who's voting early to give us an indication of energy, and that's usually a pretty solid bit of evidence to use to make a prediction about the outcome."

The big picture: Virginia already saw a huge jump in voting by mail during its municipal elections in May. Forty-two times as many mail-in ballots were cast in that election than in 2016.

  • In 20 Virginia towns and nine cities, more than half the votes cast in the municipal election were absentee.
  • And some people waited in line for four hours on the state's first day of early voting for the general election in September.

The other side: President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that increased mail-in voting spurred by the pandemic will lead to widespread voter fraud.

  • That has spurred consternation among some top Republicans. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has privately encouraged voting by mail and warned Trump the party could be "screwed" by his fight against mail-in voting.

Watch Axios' News Shapers event.

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