AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — It has truly been a political record breaking year in Texas. With one day still left in early voting, Texans have already cast more ballots in the presidential election than they did during all of 2016.

Because an unprecedented surge of early voting in a state that was once the country’s most reliably Republican, experts now say Texas may now be drifting toward battleground status. The state hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.

More than 9 million ballots have been cast as of Friday morning in the nation’s second most-populous state, exceeding the 8,969,226 cast 2016, according to an Associated Press tally of early votes from data provided by Texas officials.

According to the Texas secretary of state’s website, nearly 433,000 people went to the polls on Thursday to cast their ballot — bringing the total of in-person votes to more than 8 million Mail-in ballots, which are still coming in from all over the state, account for more than 947,000 votes so far.

Texas is the first state to hit the milestone. This year’s numbers were aided by Democratic activists challenging in court for, and winning, the right to extend early voting by one week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas also offers only limited vote-by-mail options when compared to the rest of the country, meaning casting in-person, early ballots is the primary way to vote for people who don’t want to line up and do so on Election Day.

Voters in Texas do not register by party affiliation, meaning no one can be sure until the ballots are counted whether one party or the other will benefit from the surge in turnout.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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