updated - July 25, 2014 Friday EDT
With the curtain fell on the presidential campaign, all eyes are post on the ballot boxes.
In many states people are mailing in their completed absentee ballot, and in some cases, vote early in-person at designated polling places. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have repeatedly urged voters to cast their ballots before Election Day. And Obama will return to Chicago today to vote early, the first time a sitting president has voted early and in person.
Both campaigns hope they can beat the other in early voting in battleground states so that they can boost overall turnout for their candidate, or at least bank a stronger foundation of support in advance of Election Day.
Many have taken the candidates' advice. More 7.6 million people have already voted with 12 days until Election Day, according to the United States Election Project at George Mason University (GMU). Nearly a quarter of all voters cast their ballot before Election Day in 2008 and it could be an even bigger share this time around.
"It's up everywhere you look," said Prof. Michael McDonald, who runs the election project at GMU.
With real votes already being cast, we can begin to get a picture of which candidate has an advantage in winning the presidency since many states provide the party ID of early voters. But like everything else, it's important to cut through the spin about the early vote. Both campaigns and party committees have bombarded reporters with memos and charts about how their side is winning because of their early voting performance.
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