| GEO World|
| Initial voting continues in Florida, other states|
| Updated at: 1539 PST, Friday, October 24, 2008|
WASHINGTON: Americans are turning out en masse to get their votes in ahead of the November 4 US presidential election, with a surge in early-voting Democrats suggesting Barack Obama may lead the vote tally thus far.
Huge numbers of people queued up at libraries, malls and schools to get their picks in early in key battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Nevada, as Americans sought to avoid the long lines, registration and voting machine hiccups that marred the 2004 presidential vote, election officials said.
In some states like Georgia and North Carolina early voting was double the pace of the last election. "Early voting has steadily increased from 14 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2004, and (we) predict that as many as a third of the electorate in 2008 will cast their votes before November 4," said Paul Gronke, who heads the Early Voting Center at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
Democratic candidate Senator Obama's campaign was actively encouraging voting ahead of election day, in hopes of locking in the advantage many opinion polls are giving him over his rival, Republican John McCain.
"Do not wait until November 4," Obama urged voters in Tampa, Florida on Monday, the first day of early voting in the southern state seen as crucial by both parties. "Your car might break down, you might have an emergency. Your alarm might not go off, you will not get to work on time. So take advantage of early voting," Obama said.
Early voting especially for soldiers by mail has been around in the United States since the 1860s Civil War, said James Hicks, a researcher at the Early Voting Center. But the high numbers have come with many states now 33 of 50 allowing people to vote by mail or in person ahead of election day without having to give any excuse, such as being away on election day.