Early voting: At least 16.4M ballots already cast nationally

Election Day is Tuesday, but at least 16.4 million ballots have already been cast in person or by mail in 31 states, according to the Associated Press.

The importance of early voting has been emphasized in recent weeks by everyone from President Obama to Mitt Romney. The AP found early voting is up from 2010 in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. In all, 33 states and the District of Columbia offer in-person early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Both parties are trying to say the numbers in key states are to their advantage, such as in North Carolina, which features the close Senate race between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis. From the AP story:

Blacks, who support Hagan by an overwhelming margin, have cast about a quarter of the early vote, compared to 21 percent in 2010. Women have cast 55 percent, two points higher than 2010.

North Carolina Republicans noted they had a 16-point early voting gap in 2012, but Romney ended up defeating Obama in that crucial swing state by about 2 percentage points.

Roughly 90 million votes are expected to be cast in the midterm elections. Voting and elections expert Michael McDonald at the University of Florida said the data so far show we're on track to have 27.5% of all votes will be cast before Election Day — up from about 1 in 4 or 24.9% in the 2010 midterm elections. McDonald tracks early voting data on his U.S. Elections Project website.

McDonald offers a more detailed analysis on early voting in key states in a blog he writes for The Huffington Post. His shorter take, he says, is this:

The Republican sweep screaming in the headlines is overblown. Senate control is up for grabs and Democrats have a decent chance to defy the polls. I expect that the election will be so close that we won't know who won until all ballots are counted and the vote is certified several days following the election, not to mention highly probably run-off elections in Georgia and Louisiana.

Bottom line: This is a close election, and every vote counts.

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)


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