More than 800,000 people have already voted in the 2012 general election. A clearer picture of the potential 2012 electorate is emerging in some states where election officials are providing information on who has voted.
Early voting -- both mail and in-person -- is on pace to exceed 2008 levels, when about 30 percent of all votes nationally were cast prior to Election Day. The 2008 levels may be exceeded even further in states such as Iowa and Ohio, where early voting has been brisk. As a corollary, with no collapse in early voting, there is no indication so far that overall turnout, both early and Election Day, will be substantially lower than 2008.
In two states where party registration of early voters is available -- Maine and North Carolina -- slightly more registered Democrats have requested ballots as of a comparable date in 2008. Conversely, fewer registered Republicans have requested ballots. In Iowa, both registered Democrats and Republicans are voting above their 2008 levels, with a greater increase among Democrats.
Ohio presents a more complex picture. Early voting is up quite a bit over the 2008 level. This is likely because election officials sent absentee ballot applications to every registered voter. Ohio does not have party registration, so county-level data provides a better picture of the partisan implications. While levels are somewhat higher in rural counties, they are up in urban counties, too. In-person early voting is a preferred choice of urbanites, so the differences observed so far may narrow as in-person early voting continues. While the Obama campaign has been concerned about the limitation of in-person early voting during the weekend in Ohio, there is little indication so far that this has negatively influenced in-person voting. Still, the heaviest period of in-person voting in 2008 was the weekend prior to the election, so caution should be taken when projecting out from this lighter period of early in-person voting.
A more detailed state-by-state analysis follows.
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