Early American voters go ’shopping’ to pick president

October 30th, 2008 - 10:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Oct 30 (IANS) Voting at grocery stores across Las Vegas and drive in polling stations in California, at least 16 million Americans have already made their choice of the next president - Barack Obama or John McCain.Across the nation 32 states that allow no-excuse absentee or early voting, votes have been pouring in at a record pace, media reports said with some estimating that as many as one third of all the voters may cast their ballots before the Nov 4 election day.

In a Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll, 59 percent of early voters said they had backed Democrat Obama, while 40 percent indicated that they supported Republican McCain. So far, the numbers are a near-mirror image of the past two elections, the Post said.

Four years ago, President George W. Bush scored 60 percent of early voters, the Post said citing data from the National Annenberg Election Survey. In 2000, that survey put then Texas governor Bush’s take at 62 percent.

Mike DuHaime, political director for the McCain campaign, suggested that as the early-voting numbers continue to come in, they will begin to reflect the traditional Republican advantage among those casting absentee ballots.

He thinks that increased early voting may simply detract from Election Day turnout among Democrats. “Programmatically, I feel pretty good about those numbers,” he was quoted as saying.

At grocery stores across Las Vegas, Nevada voters are casting their ballots, and then shopping for bananas or hitting the slot machines a few feet away, the New York Times said.

About 100 people have voted from the windows of their cars, ATM style, in Orange County, California. Several busloads of voters pulled up to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland Sunday, did what they came to do, and then repaired to a church across the street for some fried chicken.

In all its forms, early voting has been an election year hit, the Times said. Enormous lines in Florida led Governor Charlie Crist to issue an executive order extending early voting hours statewide from eight hours a day to 12, while in Georgia an elderly woman in Cobb County stood in the sun so long to vote that she collapsed.

The early voting will continue for several days in most of the states, but in Louisiana it is already closed, and it will end on Friday or Saturday elsewhere to give time to update the books to prevent people from voting twice.

In 2004, 22 percent of voters cast an early presidential ballot, and the number is expected to climb to 30 percent to 35 percent this year. “We have predicted a third of the electorate; I expect that we will meet that,” said James Hicks, research director at the Early Voting Information Centre at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

In some places like Las Vegas area, voters were rewarded with short waits and well-oiled systems. Several grocery stores offered electronic voting.

“We are the only state in the nation where you’ll hear, ‘Wet mop at Voting Booth 4,’” Bob Walsh, a spokesman for the Nevada secretary of state was quoted as saying.

At the Galleria at Sunset Mall in Henderson, Nevada, voters lined up to use three rows of machines sandwiched between two jewellery stores, a Mervyn’s department store and a stand selling face cream.

Volunteers waved citizens, some carrying shopping bags, to the open machines with little American flags festooned to sticks. Several couples came together to vote, and the adults took turns entertaining the children who were brought along.

In other states, lines snaked for hours and tested tempers. In New Orleans, for example, voters clocked six-hour waits this week.

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