Election Day may be more than a month away, but early voting has already begun. Voters in South Dakota and Idaho began casting their ballots on September 21, while voters in Iowa lined up outside polling stations late last week. In the upcoming weeks, dozens more states will open their voting booths. In total, 32 states and the District of Columbia allow early voting with a few restrictions, including key battle ground states like Ohio, Florida, and Colorado. Other potential tipping point states, like New Hampshire and Virginia, do not allow for early voting.
It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans will vote early — some in person and most by mail. The percentage of early voters has been on the rise in recent years, with 23 percent of Americans voting early in 2004, and more than 30 percent in 2008.
Jerry Bloomer has already cast his ballot. Bloomer is a resident of Hot Springs, South Dakota and he headed to the Fall River County Auditors Office on the first day of voting in that state. He happened to be downtown on the day that the polls opened, and stopped by the Auditors Office to see if he could vote yet. A lifelong Democrat, Bloomer has voted in every presidential election since 1960.
Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway's Washington correspondent, explains that early voting is different in every state. In some states, you must have a valid excuse to vote early; in others, like South Dakota, anyone can vote beginning when the polls open. What is remarkable about early voting is just how many people choose to vote early. In 2008, Obama targeted early voters, timing his rallies in various states to coincide with the opening of the polls.
"A full third of people voted early in 2008," Zwillich says. "That is expected to go way up, even in this election." The Romney campaign is reaching out to early voters this year, knowing that the Republican Party lost in large part because of early voting in 2008.
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