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Early voting already underway in US presidential race

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Tens of thousands of Americans have already cast their votes for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or other candidates well ahead of November’s presidential election, part of an early voting tradition that is gaining popularity.

With 35 days still to go, it has not yet been a voting deluge. According to professor Michael McDonald, an early voting specialist at the University of Florida, about 130,000 people have already voted — out of 130 million expected voters.

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Early ballots will be officially counted on Election Day, Tuesday November 8.

The US electoral system is a decentralized operation: the nation’s 50 states organize the vote and the ballot counting, each in its own way.

Americans have two early voting options:

– By mail. This is available across the 50 states. Voters usually must request the ballots in advance. In 20 states, they must provide an excuse for voting by mail. Three states — Colorado, Oregon and Washington — mail ballots to every registered voter.

– In person. Voting booths, for example in county administration offices, are open early with varying degrees of access, in 37 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Voting in person largely begins in October. Three states have already begun in-person early voting, including Iowa. Ohio residents can begin voting in person on October 12.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Ohio on October 14 for a “Get Out the Early Vote” rally for Clinton in Cleveland, according to the Clinton campaign.

There is no access to the ballots cast, but there are some clues about whom the early voters might be supporting.

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Americans register according to party — either as Democrats, Republicans, independents, or members of other parties — and electoral authorities sometimes provide statistics on the number of voters in each party who requested ballots.

In Iowa, for example, twice as many Democrats as Republicans have requested absentee ballots, suggesting an advantage for Clinton.

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But such data cannot foretell an election result. The Democratic Party may have begun its grass roots mobilization earlier than the Republicans in Iowa. The elderly usually vote before young people, which favors the Republicans.

Early voting is expanding. In 1996, according to the US Census Bureau, only 10.5 percent of votes were cast early. By 2012, that figure had risen to one third of all ballots cast.


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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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