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Early Voting Off to a Fast Start       10/22 10:33

   Early voting -- by mail or at polling stations -- is off to a fast start. 
More than 5.3 million votes have been cast already, far outpacing the rate for 
this period in 2012. Balloting is underway in 34 out of 37 early-voting states.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Clinton appears to be displaying strength in the 
crucial battleground states of North Carolina and Florida among voters casting 
ballots before Election Day, and may also be building an early vote advantage 
in Arizona and Colorado.

   Donald Trump, meanwhile, appears to be holding ground in Ohio, Iowa and 
Georgia, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. Those are 
important states for Trump, but not sufficient for him to win the presidency if 
he loses states like Florida or North Carolina.

   "The Trump campaign should be concerned," said Scott Tranter, co-founder of 
Optimus, a Republican data analytics firm. His firm's analysis suggests a 
"strong final showing for the Clinton campaign" in early voting.

   Early voting --- by mail or at polling stations --- is off to a fast start. 
More than 5.3 million votes have been cast already, far outpacing the rate for 
this period in 2012. Balloting is underway in 34 out of 37 early-voting states.

   In all, more than 46 million people are expected to vote before Election Day 
--- or as much as 40 percent of all votes cast.

   Both parties are encouraging their supporters to vote early. The outcome of 
those ballots won't be known until counting begins after polls close on Nov. 8, 
but some clues are available. Some states report the party affiliations of 
early voters, as well as breakdowns by race and gender.

   The data that is available represents a small sample of the more than 120 
million people who will cast ballots in the presidential election, but a 
notable one.

   A look at early voting trends:



   The Clinton campaign is looking to build an insurmountable lead in Florida 
and North Carolina during early voting. If she wins either of those states, 
she'll probably be the next president.

   Using 2012 as a guidepost, she appears to be in a strong position in early 

   While Democrats tend to do better in early voting, Republicans usually post 
an initial lead with mail-in ballots before Democrats surpass them during 
in-person early voting in mid to late October.

   Democrats so far have kept it close with mail-in ballots, giving Clinton a 
chance to run up the score with in-person early voting. To do that, she'll need 
non-whites and young people to turn out near the high levels they did in 2012 
for Barack Obama.

   In North Carolina, Democrats have moved ahead of Republicans in early 
voting. Republicans had held a modest lead based on mail-in ballots returned, 
but that was at a much narrower margin than in 2012, when Mitt Romney narrowly 
won the state. After in-person voting began on Thursday, Democrats overtook 
Republicans in overall votes cast.

   In Florida, a record 3.1 million people have requested ballots, more than 
one-third of the total voters in 2012. Democrats have requested almost as many 
ballots as Republicans: 39 percent vs. 40 percent.

   By comparison, in 2008, Republicans held a lead of 49 percent to 32 percent 
in requests, according to an analysis for AP by Catalist, a Democratic 
analytical firm. Obama won in Florida in 2008 and 2012.

   Democrats are also showing momentum in the 2nd congressional district of 
both Maine and Nebraska. The two states allocate electoral votes by 
congressional district.



   Early voting is surging in Arizona, another state Trump can't afford to 
lose. Arizona has long been reliably Republican, but Clinton is targeting it.

   More than 1.9 million ballots have been requested and 36,000 returned. 
That's more than triple the 10,800 ballots returned during a similar period in 

   Democrats have a 44 percent to 31 percent lead over Republicans in ballots 
returned. Another 25 percent were independent or unknown. At this point in 
2012, Democrats had a narrower 38 percent to 35 percent lead, according to 

   While figures are preliminary, Tranter, the Republican analyst, said Arizona 
had become competitive.

   "It's close," Tranter said.

   In Colorado, which began voting by mail on Monday, Democrats led 43 percent 
to 30 percent among the 15,280 ballots returned by late Thursday. In 2012, the 
party had trailed Republicans early. Registered Democrats have since surpassed 
Republicans in the state.

   And in Nevada, which also began absentee voting this week, overall ballot 
requests and returns were down. There were sharper declines among older whites, 
who tend to vote Republican.



   Early vote data for now points to potential Trump strength in Ohio, Iowa and 

   In Ohio, data compiled by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida 
professor who runs the U.S. Elections Project, continue to show big declines in 
ballot requests in the heavily Democratic counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin.

   The state does not break down ballots by party affiliation. By race, voter 
modeling by Catalist found the white share of Ohio ballot requests was up, to 
91 percent from 88 percent. The black share declined from 10 percent to 7 

   In Georgia, which also does not report party affiliation, both ballot 
requests and returns from black voters also trailed 2012 levels.

   And in Iowa, Democrats lead early requests, 43 percent to 36 percent. But 
that level is down significantly from 2012. Obama won the state that year based 
on a strong early vote in his favor.

   In a statement, the Republican National Committee said it was focused on 
boosting turnout in 11 battleground states and predicted a strong Election Day 

   "Democrats are not turning out new voters, just turning out people who would 
have voted on Election Day," it said.


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