(Corrects paragraph 7 to say "who declined to say for whom she
voted" instead of "who said she voted for Obama")
* Obama leads Romney 54 to 39 percent among early voters
* Reuters/Ipsos poll: 18 percent have voted early so far
* Candidates urge supporters to vote before Nov. 6
By Deborah Charles
WASHINGTON, Oct 26 Early voters could account
for up to 40 percent of all voters in the 2012 U.S. presidential
election, and polls of people who already have cast ballots show
President Barack Obama with a comfortable lead over Republican
challenger Mitt Romney.
Both candidates have been urging supporters not just to vote
but to do it early as Republicans and Democrats campaign
vigorously - particularly in key battleground states - to lock
up as many votes as possible before Election Day on Nov. 6.
Polls of people who say they already have voted show Obama
with a lead in many of the states. The Obama campaign, which
benefited from early voting in 2008, has focused heavily on
urging supporters to vote early in this election as well.
Obama leads Romney 54 percent to 39 percent among voters who
already have cast ballots, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling
data compiled in recent weeks. The sample size of early voters
is 960 people with a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5
About 18 percent of registered voters already have cast
ballots, the Reuters/Ipsos polling data showed. Around a quarter
of minority voters - who tend to support Obama - and almost a
fifth of white voters have cast ballots, the data showed.
Allison Gilmore voted during her lunch break at a community
center in Arlington, Virginia. Like many who vote early, Gilmore
was not sure she could make it on Election Day.
"I don't know how busy I'll be at work, (with) childcare -
and I want to make sure I get my vote in," said Gilmore, 35, who
declined to say for whom she voted.
Early voting, which began in some states in September, is
now underway in nearly all 50 states, either by mail-in or
in-person voting. Political scientists who specialize in early
voting predict that a record 35 to 40 percent of all U.S. voters
will cast their ballots before the Nov. 6 election.
"In some of the battleground states, rates are even above
that," said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at
George Mason University in Virginia who runs the U.S. Election
Project and tracks all early votes (here).
"There's a lot of activity out there with both the Romney
and the Obama campaigns organizing and mobilizing their
supporters to vote early," McDonald said.
According to McDonald's data, states like Iowa and Ohio -
both of which are considered pivotal in the election - show a
faster pace of early voting than in 2008.
A main reason for the increase in numbers of people voting
early is that Republicans, who were caught flat-footed by
Obama's strong performance in early voting in 2008, have put
more emphasis on it this time around, experts said.
The parties have been sending out dueling memos in the past
few days with each side claiming to have the upper hand in early
As a sign of the importance the Democrats place on early
voting, Obama became the first sitting president to vote early
when he cast his ballot in Chicago on Thursday.
The two parties spent a lot of time in court this year
battling over early voting laws in states like Florida and Ohio
as Democrats accused Republicans of trying to limit early voting
to suppress the turnout of working-class and minority voters.
In the end, Ohio was ordered by the courts to allow early
voting to all until the eve of the election. And while Florida
cut the number of days of early voting, it agreed to extend the
number of hours on each day to satisfy critics.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Chicago; Patricia
Zengerle in Arlington, Virginia, Sam Youngman in Cincinnati and
Gabriel Debenedetti and Maurice Tamman in New York; Editing by