SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – With less than three weeks until Election Day, the California Secretary of State’s office said elections officials have received 10 times as many vote-by-mail ballots so far compared to this point in 2016.

As of Wednesday morning, 1,511,522 ballots have been returned. At this point in the campaign four years ago, about 150,000 vote-by-mail ballots were returned.

“Californians are voting early in historic numbers,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement. “We knew the COVID-19 pandemic would pose significant challenges, but elections officials have prepared and voters have responded.”

Due to the pandemic, election officials across the state sent mail-in-ballots to all active, registered voters earlier this month.

While the return rate of vote-by-mail ballots is high, election officials across the Bay Area are also seeing a surge of voters who are casting their ballots in person.

“Usually in the past we had four or five people on the first few days,” Evelyn Mendez with the Santa Clara Registrar of Voters Office told KPIX 5 last Friday. “We’ve had over 300 people that have already voted in-person.”

Meanwhile in Contra Costa County, officials said about 5,000 ballots a day came in last week and another 20,000 came in on Tuesday morning.

Contra Costa early voting ballots (CBS)

“These are the ballots that were picked up from the drop bop boxes yesterday afternoon,” Contra Costa County Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek told KPIX 5 on Tuesday, pointing to several full shelves of ballots.

The high turnout also comes amid reports of the California Republican Party installing unofficial ballot drop boxes in some counties, despite orders from the State Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office to stop. Experts have warned the boxes could be illegal.

ALSO READ: Sonoma County Officials Warn Voters About Unofficial Ballot Drop Boxes

According to Padilla’s office, a record 84.68% of eligible Californians are registered, the highest percentage heading into a General Election in the past 68 years.

The deadline to register to vote is Monday, October 19, but those who miss the deadline can complete the same-day voter registration process and cast a vote at an in-person voting location or their county elections office.

Voters can check their registration status by visiting VoterStatus.sos.ca.gov.

Election Day is November 3rd.

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