US08 – Vote early, vote often

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With six days to go before polls close in the US, levels of early voting are at their highest levels in a US election. As of Tuesday, the Washington Post summarised early voting figures as:

More than twelve million voters have already cast ballots in the presidential contest, according to one estimate, and new data from the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll shows these voters breaking Democratic by a wide margin.

Among those who said they have already voted at an early voting location or sent in an absentee ballot, Barack Obama picked up 60 percent of the vote in the new poll to John McCain’s 39 percent.

These voters make up 9 percent of “likely” voters in the track.

The senator from Illinois has a similar lead, 58 to 39 percent, among those who plan to vote early but have not yet. (Those who plan to vote on Election Day also go for Obama, but by a narrower, 51 to 45 percent.)

Across key states, levels of early voting are on track to exceed 2004 figures, with as many as 25% of voters casting their ballots before election day. Some states have already exceeded 2004 figures, including states such as Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina. Daily Kos has laid out the figures in various key states.

So what does this mean? There are clear indications that Barack Obama is favoured, with polls suggesting he holds leads of up to 20% amongst those who have already cast their ballots. Fivethirtyeight.com has also suggested a clear correlation between massive levels of early voting turnout and large African American populations, which suggests that turnout amongst the African-American population is strongly surging. Considering Obama’s domination of this demographic, it bodes well for the Democrat, particularly in southern states such as Georgia and Mississippi, where there are also close Senate races.

Most recently, Republican Governor of Florida Charlie Crist has announced an extension in voting hours for early voting in the key southern state, while Georgia has refused to follow suit.

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