Tags: romney | obama | early | voting

Obama, Romney Lay Claim to 8.1M Early Voters

Thursday, 25 Oct 2012 09:50 PM

Early voting is up this presidential election year – very actively in the 11 swing states – with both President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney taking credit for getting voters to the polls early.

Americans are now voting in 34 states, 12 days before the Nov. 6 election. As of Thursday, more than 8.1 million people had voted, according to the United States Election Project at George Mason University in Virginia, a key swing state.

That represents 6.1 percent of the 132.6 million total votes cast in the 2008 election. In that election, 41.1 million, or 31 percent of the total votes cast were from early voters.

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The numbers are expected to be even bigger this election.

"It's up everywhere you look," Michael McDonald, a George Mason associate professor who runs the project, told ABC News.

Both Obama and Romney – and their surrogates – have emphasized the importance of early voting throughout their campaigns. The race for the White House is expected to be decided on the slimmest of margins – and neither candidate is taking changes.

"I need you to commit as well, not only to vote, and vote early – I won’t say often, just vote early," Romney on Thursday urged a crowd in Cincinnati in the key battleground state of Ohio, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

And just last week, vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told supporters at a Cleveland campaign event, “Please don’t forget early voting,’’ The Boston Globe reports. “Ohioans have a unique responsibility. You are the battleground of battleground states.”

For his part, President Obama flew to his Chicago hometown on Thursday to vote at a community center in his neighborhood. He became the first sitting president to vote early and in person.

And at Broward College in Florida on Monday before the final presidential debate, Michelle Obama urged supporters to vote early in order to get it out of the way – just in case “you wake up on Election Day and you’re sick, the car broke down, there’s no babysitter,” The Globe reports. “You don’t have to chance it.”

Michelle Obama voted by absentee ballot.

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And both campaigns are taking credit for getting early voters out, particularly in Ohio.

The Obama campaign said on Thursday that early voting in counties and precincts that the president won in 2008 is much stronger than in the last election, NBC News reports.

In fact, Obama national field director Jeremy Bird wrote on the campaign’s website that early voting in Democratic portions of the Buckeye State is exceeding early voting in Ohio’s Republican corners.

But Republicans countered by saying that most of the early voters touted by the Obama campaign were likely to vote Democratic anyway, thereby eating into their Election Day turnout, NBC reports.

"In states where Democrats have more early votes (IA, OH, NV) they are investing significant resources in turning out “high propensity voters” – those who have voted in either 3 or 4 of the past 4 general elections," a Republican National Committee memo quoted by NBC contended on Thursday.

The RNC memo added that there were about a million Democratic voters, of whom about 43 percent had requested an absentee ballot or had already voted.

By contrast, the committee said the Buckeye State had over 1.3 million registered Republicans, only about 27 percent of whom had voted early or requested an absentee ballot, NBC reports.

Early voting is particularly important in this election for the Republicans, as they learned the hard way in 2008.

That year, Arizona Sen. John McCain won most of the votes cast at the polls on Election Day in the key states of North Carolina, Florida, Iowa and Colorado – The Globe reports – but his margin of victory was erased by votes for Obama that were cast early.

As a result, McCain won no electoral votes in those four critical states.

This year, the GOP is working vigorously to get out the early vote, even as the party has tried to restrict it in some areas, most notably in Ohio, where Obama could benefit, The Globe reports.

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In fact, Republicans are adopting some of the tactics that Democrats used in key states in 2008: mining troves of data to identify possible supporters and then helping them vote early, offering guidance on registering to vote and mailing absentee ballots; posting reminders of deadlines, and offering rides to early balloting locations.

Besides Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa and Colorado, other key battleground states this election year include Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

No president has won with White House without taking Ohio.

“I’m a believer in crushing your opponent on the ground: door to door, neighborhood to neighborhood and absentee ballot programs,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told Newsmax in an exclusive interview last month. “The Democrats have nothing on us when it comes to the ground operation. Their ground game doesn’t stack up to us at all.

“The only way to win this election is on the ground, so our money — the vast majority of RNC money that is stockpiled — is for the ground game, to make sure we hit our goals and exceed our goals in communities and neighborhood across America,” Priebus added. “We have the technology and the personnel up and down to get this done – and that’s what my focus is on.

“The airwaves are going to be saturated. It all will come down to door-to-door and the ground game.”

It’s a strategy the GOP can’t afford to not undertake this year.

“The Republicans ignored it to their detriment four years ago, and the Romney campaign can’t afford to ignore it,” George Mason’s McDonald told The Globe.

Historically, absentee-ballot voters have voted Republican – and generally are more likely to be white, older and conservative.

But as early voting was expanded in 2008, the Obama campaign worked vigorously to reach out to sporadic voters in low-income neighborhoods, minority enclaves, and college campuses — seeking to get them to the polls early, The Globe reports.

“If you can get them to the polls early, that’s a guaranteed vote,” John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told The Globe.

“If they wait until Election Day,” he said, “their vote is still up in the air.”

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Here is a breakdown so far of absentee voting or early in-person voting in the key battleground states and how it compares with the total votes cast in 2008, according to the United States Election Project. Not all states have reported to the project.

Early ballots will not be counted until Election Day:
  • Colorado, with 9 electoral college votes: 325,810, or 13.5 percent of the more than the 2.4 million votes cast in 2008.
  • Florida, with 29 electoral votes: 1,052,098, or 12.4 percent of the 8,453,743 total votes cast in 2008.
  • Iowa, 6 votes: 399,858, or nearly 30 percent of the 1,5 million total votes cast in 2008.
  • Nevada, six votes: 264,654, or nearly 33 percent of the more than 970,000 votes cast in 2008.
  • North Carolina, 15 votes: 991,788, or nearly 23 percent of the 4.3 million votes cast in 2008.
  • Ohio, 18 electoral votes: 812,227, or 14.1 percent of the 5.7 million total votes cast in 2008.
  • Virginia, 13 votes: 195,049, or 5.2 percent of the more than 3.7 million votes cast in 2008.

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