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Voting starts for US Prez polls
Published on 25 Oct. 2008 11:58 PM IST
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The US presidential election is 10 days away, but Americans in large numbers are already turning out to vote to avoid the long lines, registration and voting machine hiccups that marred the 2004 elections. Among the early voters on Friday was President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush backing Republican nominee John McCain. Their votes are being sent back to their home state Texas, White House said. In past elections, the two have travelled to Texas to vote, but this time they plan to be at their home in Washington November 4 election night. Voters in large numbers lined up at libraries, malls and schools to make their choices early in key battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Nevada. In some states like Georgia and North Carolina early voting was double the pace of the last election. As of Tuesday, 29 states were accepting early ballots, and election officials are reporting record turnouts, CNN said. Voting problems, ranging from computer glitches to long lines, have been reported in a few states. In Florida, which has switched to its third ballot system in the last three election cycles, glitches associated with the transition are causing headaches and long lines, election officials said. The state went back to using paper ballots this year after trying out touch screens. Democrat nominee Barack Obama's campaign has been actively encouraging voting ahead of election day, in hopes of locking in the advantage many opinion polls are giving him over McCain. Early voting - especially for soldiers by mail - has been around in the US since the 1860s Civil War, but now as many as 33 of the 50 states allow people to vote by mail or in person ahead of election day without having to give any excuse. "Early voting has steadily increased from 14 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent in 2004, and (we) predict that as many as a third of the electorate in 2008 will cast their votes before November 4," according to Paul Gronke, head of an Early Voting Centre in Portland, Oregon. Gallup Poll Daily tracking data indicate that about 11 per cent of registered voters who plan to vote have already voted as of Wednesday night, with another 19 per cent saying they plan to vote before Election Day. Roughly equal percentages of Obama supporters and McCain supporters have taken advantage of the early voting opportunity-so far, Gallup said. In addition to the 11 per cent who say they have already voted, another 19 per cent of registered voters who plan to vote say they will vote early, before Election Day. That leaves just about 7 out of 10 voters who intend to go to the polls Nov 4 itself. The impact of early voting on the election outcome is difficult to determine, Gallup said. Having the results for early voters "locked in" means that a last-minute surge in support toward either candidate would not be reflected in the final election outcome for those early voters. At this point, there is little significant difference in the propensity to vote early between the Obama supporters and the McCain supporters interviewed in the aggregated sample of all interviews conducted from last Friday through Wednesday, it said. Thus, if McCain gains rapidly in the days left, Obama benefits, since Obama can't lose votes he has already received, Gallup said. If McCain loses support rapidly, Obama will not have the chance to pick up even more support from those who have already voted.

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