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At an ever-growing rate thanks to a myriad of state voting law changes, up from 33% in 2008, a record 40% of votes could be cast prior to Election Day with the advent of “no excuse” absentee voting and early voting in some states.

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Report from the National Journal:

From in-person at designated polling places to absentee that requires no justification, early voting is becoming increasingly popular and accessible across the country. Election experts estimate that a record 40 percent of 2012 voters could cast their ballots before Election Day, up from 33 percent in 2008. Both campaigns eyeing a jubilant November are taking note.

The Obama campaign has some practice in this arena. With significantly more resources at its disposal than rival John McCain in 2008, it made banking early votes a top priority and deployed some smart campaign tactics to that end. Of those who cast early ballots in 2008, 58 percent favored Obama, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken just before Election Day, versus McCain’s 40 percent.

Obama and his surrogates strategically scheduled events near early-voting locations so supporters could easily be herded or driven to those sites. Rally attendees who wore “I Voted” stickers got preferential seating. In addition, the Obama campaign diligently compared the early voter rolls provided by some states and localities with their own lists of supporters so they could devote time and resources only to people they hadn’t yet snagged.

In 2012, voters will be able to cast their ballots early in person in 32 states, while 27 will offer no-excuse absentee voting. Election calendars are still being finalized, but if states hew to their schedules from 2010, some could begin voting as early as mid-September. By the end of that month, voters in the key swing state of Iowa will be casting early ballots.

Don’t expect the Romney campaign to be nearly as outgunned as McCain was four years ago. “It’s not clear that it advantages either party as a partisan thing per se,” said political scientist Christopher Mann of the University of Miami, a former Democratic consultant. “It advantages the party that is more organized and more committed to taking advantage of the alternative methods of voting available.”

That is a pretty staggering number which further dilutes the importance of a single “Election Day” as the day of reckoning for the candidates. If “leaners” can be encouraged to vote early and get locked into a choice, it can stem the tide of voters closer to Election Day if news breaks which is positive or negative for any given candidate. “October surprise” will have to turn into an “August surprise” at this rate.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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