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Democrats hold edge in swing state early voting

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Early voters wait in line to vote in the presidential election on the first day of early voting at a polling station set up at the City of Miami City Hall, Oct. 27, 2012, in Miami. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

One day before Election Day, more than 29.9 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and based on the available data, Democrats appear to have an edge in some key states.

It's impossible to say whether President Obama or Mitt Romney has collected more votes so far, since states don't tally votes until Election Day. Some states, however, report turnout by party affiliation. Of the five battleground states that report on partisan turnout, Democrats are leading in four, while Republicans are leading in one, according to data compiled by George Mason University's United States Elections Project.

Early voting has become an increasingly significant part of presidential elections. In 2008, when Mr. Obama decisively won a number of swing states, some polling experts said they knew he had won a week before the election because of early voting results. According to the George Mason project, 30.8 percent of all votes in 2008 were cast early.

This year, the race is closer, and Republicans argue that their strength lies in Election Day turnout, rather than early voting. "We are poised to blow the Obama campaign out on Election Day," Rick Wiley, political director for the Republican National Committee, said in a memo today. "When you add it all up, the Democrats' early vote advantage just isn't big enough."

Colorado: So far, Republicans can claim an edge in when it comes to turnout in at least one battleground: Colorado. As of Saturday, more than 1.6 million early ballots had been returned in Colorado, the Colorado Secretary of State's office reported, with nearly 37 percent belonging to registered Republicans and more than 34 percent coming from Democrats. Another 28.5 percent came from voters affiliated with neither major party. As many as 80 percent of Colorado voters are expected to cast their ballots early, according to CBS News estimates.

Florida: Republicans, however, have lost the lead in early voting they held less than two weeks ago in Florida. More than 4.3 million Floridians had voted as of Sunday, the Miami Herald reported. More than 42 percent of those voters were Democrat, while 39.5 percent were Republican. Nearly 18 percent were not affiliated with either party.

Democrats were expected to take the lead in early voting once in-person voting started. The Democratic Party, however, has had serious complaints with the Republican Party for its decision to limit early voting. First, the GOP-led legislature limited in-person early voting to eight days this year, then Gov. Rick Scott refused requests from Democrats to expand early voting.

On Sunday, after Democrats filed suit to create more "voting opportunities," some county elections offices were opened for in-person absentee voting. The day turned chaotic at the Miami-Dade Elections Department, when a large number of would-be voters overwhelmed the office, prompting it to close temporarily.

Nevada: More than 700,000 ballots have been cast in Nevada, the state reported Saturday, with nearly 44 percent coming from Democrats and 37 percent from Republicans. About 19 percent were from voters unaffiliated with either major party. About 60 percent of voters are expected to cast their ballots early in the Silver State.

Iowa: In Iowa, the state reported today, more than 640,000 ballots have been turned in. More than 42 percent have come from Democrats and more than 32 percent were from Republicans. Another 25.6 percent were from unaffiliated voters. While that's a significant lead for the Democrats, Republicans point out that in 2008, Democrats led by almost 24 points in early voting. (The president won the state by about 10 points.)

North Carolina: More than 2.7 million voters in North Carolina have returned ballots, the state reported today, with nearly 48 percent from Democrats and more than 31 percent from Republicans. Nearly 21 percent came from voters unaffiliated with either party.

Republicans are confident they'll win the Election Day vote in Colorado, Florida, Iowa and Nevada, pointing out that their party won the Election Day vote in those states even in 2008. "Republicans are an Election Day party," Wiley said in today's RNC memo. "By and large, we vote on Election Day, and we vote in much larger numbers than Democrats"

Meanwhile, the GOP argues Democrats are simply racking up votes from reliable voters who would turn out no matter what. Republicans say that by contrast, they're focused on early turnout among harder-to-get voters. "Now, all that remains to do is give our reliable voters the final reminder needed to get them to the polls Tuesday," Wiley said.

The Obama campaign, however, completely rejects the notion that the GOP has a better ground game, stressing that they've employed smart strategies to contact voters. The Democrats have also stressed the importance of racking up early votes: "Every day has been get-out-the-vote for us in those states that allow in-person early voting," an Obama official told

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