Early Voting: Tighter Race, but Still Good Signs for Clinton

Early voting — by mail and at polling stations — is underway in 37 states

Hillary Clinton may not be accumulating the type of early-vote advantage her campaign wanted, but she continues to maintain an apparent edge over Donald Trump, with roughly one-fourth of all expected ballots cast in the 2016 election.

The Democrat's campaign once hoped to bank substantial votes from Democrats in North Carolina and Florida before Election Day. Both are must-win states for Donald Trump.

And though Clinton has comfortable leads in big states such as California and New York, and could more easily reach 270 votes without winning North Carolina and Florida, the former secretary of state was in the Tar Heel state on Thursday rallying black voters.

Clinton and artist Pharrell Williams surprised students at North Carolina Central University,  a historically black university in Durham. The two then joined Clinton's former rival Bernie Sanders at a nighttime rally in Raleigh. 

Earlier in the day at a campaign event in Winterville, Clinton linked Trump to white supremacists, saying the GOP nominee has spent his campaign "offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters."

She singled out in particular Trump's comments about the Central Park Five, a group of young black men wrongfully convicted in a racially charged 1989 rape case. While the men were cleared by DNA evidence and another person confessed to the crime, Trump has suggested he still believes they're guilty.

Clinton said that to Trump, "those kids will still and always be guilty, no matter what the evidence says."

But data about the early vote suggest she's not doing as well as President Barack Obama in 2012. Ballot requests from likely supporters have been weak in parts of the Midwest, and African-American turnout has fallen, too.

Still, the tens of millions of early votes cast also point to strength from Democratic-leaning Latino voters, potentially giving Clinton a significant advantage in Nevada and Colorado. With more than half the votes already cast in those states, Democrats are matching if not exceeding their successful 2012 pace, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

"We are seeing the trajectory of the election change in some states, but Democrats are also making up ground," said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor and expert in voter turnout.

Early voting — by mail and at polling stations — is underway in 37 states. More than 31 million votes have been cast, representing nearly 25 percent of the total votes expected nationwide if turnout is similar to 2012. In all, more than 46 million people — or as much as 40 percent of the electorate — are expected to vote before Tuesday, according to AP data.

The results of those votes won't be known until polls close next week. But early voting data — party affiliation, race and other details — are being carefully examined for clues about the ballots that have been cast so far. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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