WASHINGTON (AFP) — A record number of Americans have cast their ballots in pivotal US states ahead of Tuesday's election, with surveys suggesting many of the early voters backed Democrat Barack Obama.
Often waiting in lines for hours at polling stations, about 28.9 million people have already voted in states across the country, according to a university researcher's website, citing figures from states across the country.
The figures shattered records in several crucial states -- including Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina -- and were likely to set a new record for the country as a whole compared to the last presidential election four years ago, said Michael McDonald, associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia.
"Tens of millions of people have already cast their ballot for the 2008 presidential election," McDonald wrote on his website.
"The question remains if this means a greater share of the 2008 vote will be cast early, if turnout will be up overall, or -- as I suspect -- a combination of these two factors are in play."
Figures showed more Democrats than Republicans had voted early and polls over the past week indicated Obama enjoyed a lead over Republican rival John McCain among early voters, many of whom were African-Americans.
"What we are seeing is that Obama supporters do tend to be voting early more than McCain supporters, which is showing up in the polls and the partisan registration numbers," McDonald said Monday in an online discussion on the Washington Post website.
In Ohio, amateur videos posted on the web showed long lines stretching for several city blocks in Cleveland during early voting over the weekend.
University students in Columbus voting for the first time said they had waited in lines for more than six hours to cast their ballots.
With about 1.4 million people having already voted in the Midwestern state -- a traditional battleground in the state-by-state presidential election -- Obama has jumped ahead of McCain among early voters by double digits, according to several polls, including a Columbus Dispatch newspaper survey.
In Florida -- coveted by both campaigns -- about 4.1 million people had voted early in person or by absentee ballot. Officials said that figure was equivalent to about half the state's expected overall voter turnout.
While party affiliation did not guarantee uniform support for each party's nominee, numerous polls showed Obama enjoying a lead over McCain among early voters in states deemed crucial to the election outcome, including Colorado, Indiana, Nevada and North Carolina.
With front-runner Obama vying to be the country's first black president, his aides say he has built up a hefty lead in early voting that will make it difficult for McCain to close the gap on election day.
Turnout results showed African-Americans were voting early "at really unprecedented levels," according to McDonald.
"If these numbers hold through election day, their turnout percentage could exceed that of white voters," McDonald said.
"We're not seeing young people vote early -- and that actually follows a trend we've seen in the past 20 years, where the early voters are older than the election day voters," he said.
But he said final figures could show a surge of young voters in early voting or that turnout for all age groups would increase.
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