Early voting starts Thursday in state

Sep 25, 2012 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Now it's for real. Every time Mitt Romney or Barack Obama hits a rhetorical high note or commits another blunder, millions of voters watching and listening out there have the power to sit down at home, fill out a ballot, drop it in the mail and be done with the 2012 presidential race.

Wyoming begins its in-person voting on Thursday.

So does Iowa, one of a handful of states considered up for grabs in the neck-and-neck presidential race. That's not the case in Wyoming, where Romney is a lock to carry the state and collect its three electoral votes.

At least a third of American voters probably will lock in their choices before Election Day arrives on Nov. 6.

The old democratic ritual of a single Tuesday in November when citizens commune in lines at schools and libraries and churches is fading across much of the United States. Why not just mail it in?

Although the two candidates have yet to meet for their first debate, voting by mail is under way in two dozen states, with more to follow. In three -- Idaho, South Dakota and Vermont -- voters already can show up in person.

In some of the other hotly contested states -- Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida -- more than half the ballots are expected to come in early this year.

Stretching voting out over six weeks makes the high-wire act of presidential campaigning that much more complicated. It presents risks but also rewards for the candidates, as Obama proved in 2008 through an aggressive early mobilizing strategy that overpowered Republican challenger John McCain.

This year looks different: The Romney campaign is pouring manpower and money into its own push to sew up early votes, although Obama's campaign is doing the same thing and could benefit from early votes in key states where he has a lead.

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