12 million early voters break turnout records

MORE than 12 million early voters have already made their voices heard and the majority have backed Barack Obama.

But John McCain is hoping a certain Joe the Plumber — finally speaking on his behalf — will send the rest of the electorate in the other direction.

In key swing states early voting figures are breaking records. And one third of ballots are expected to be registered before the official election day, November 4.

Exit polls have Obama leading Republican John McCain by 53% to 34% although Democrats have placed a disproportionate emphasis on getting supporters to booths early.

In the critical battleground of Florida, more than 1 million voters waited for hours to vote during the first week of polling.

And yesterday Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, told a rally there that votes already cast could clinch a state decided by a few hundred ballots eight years ago.

“Folks, don’t wait. In this state you do not need to be told that every single, solitary vote counts,” he said.

The Democratic camp deliberately targeted minority communities traditionally slow to get involved in general elections.

Many fear inadequate resources will dissuade those restricted by work or family commitments.

In Georgia voters are currently experiencing 12-hour waits at polling stations.

And this week anticipated problems in Virginia prompted the powerful National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People to sue Governor Tim Kaine for not doing enough to ensure polling stations in black neighbourhoods can cope.

Kaine, once tipped to become Obama’s running mate, was told the system could not facilitate the volumes predicted.

“The allocation of polling place resources is plainly irrational, non-uniform and likely discriminatory.

“To adhere stubbornly to inadequate levels of resources in the face of the increased registration and increased turnout will result in a meltdown on election day,” the court documents said.

The state is facing a separate legal challenge on whether it can count some overseas ballots from army bases which are likely to favour the more military friendly McCain ticket.

Each Virginian vote, even in unconventional places, is being desperately fought for as polls predict a photo-finish. Obama returned to the state yesterday for the second time in a week, his ninth visit since June.

He became the first candidate to visit Harrisonburg’s university since Stephen Douglas was defeated by Abraham Lincoln.

Earlier he spoke in Pennsylvania where pouring rain failed to dampen supporters energised by a new poll which put him into a nine-point lead there despite recent heavy campaigning by McCain and Sarah Palin.

For his part McCain will spend today in Florida where he is hosting a Joe the Plumber rally in honour of the Ohio tradesman whose plight has become the linchpin of the Republican’s election drive.

Joe Wurzelbacher, the plumber in question, joined McCain’s campaign for the first time yesterday taking questions on his views towards Obama. Wurzelbacher, who initially called himself undecided, delivered a blunt assessment of Obama’s policy towards Israel.

“It’s my belief that a vote for Obama is a vote for the death to Israel.

“I love America. I hope it remains a democracy, not a socialist society... If you look at spreading the wealth, that’s honestly right out of Karl Marx’s mouth. No one can debate that. That is not my opinion. That is fact,” said Wurzelbacher.

The Jewish vote is particularly important in Florida.

And before his latest visit to the sunshine state McCain was given another public relations boost when the owner of the Miami Dolphins football club declared he wanted to sell the club quickly to avoid Obama’s tax regime.

Wayne Huizenga told the Sun Sentenil newspaper it was better to offload the club now to avoid captial gains increases promised by an Obama administration.

“He wants to double the capital gains tax. I’d rather give it to charity than to him,” Huizenga said.

Democrats said Obama only plans to raise this tax by a third.


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