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Early Voting May Affect Presidential Election


One of the great unknowns in this year's U.S. presidential race is what

effect the option of early voting may have.

At least 27 of the 50 states allow residents to cast their votes ahead

of election day without giving a reason. Other states allow so-called

"absentee ballots" for voters who cannot make it to a polling station on

November 2nd.

This year, at least 20 percent of voters are expected to use the early

voting option, either by mail or at special pre-election polling booths.

The development may help explain why President Bush and his Democratic

challenger John Kerry have campaigned so heavily in the midwest. Four

states in that region - Michigan, Missouri, Iowa and Ohio - begin voting

later this month, five weeks or more ahead of the official election day.

Early voting has its critics, who say it deprives voters of

late-breaking information about the candidates.

Supporters counter that early voting can increase voter turnout.

Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns have encouraged the practice. The

campaigns see early voting as a way to lock in hundreds of thousands of

votes before election day, putting them that much closer to winning the