Southern Black Vote Is Coming Out Early

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The beginning...

There have been predictions all year of a record black turnout for Obama. The first actual figures suggest that wasn't just talk:

_ In North Carolina, blacks make up 31 percent of early voters so far, even though they're just 21 percent of the population and made up only 19 percent of state's overall 2004 vote.

_ Roughly 36 percent of the early voters are black in Georgia, outpacing their 30 percent proportion of the state's population and their 25 percent share of the 2004 vote.

No one but the voters can be sure how they voted. And John McCain's campaign officials note that the Obama camp has put much more effort than they have into early voting. But the numbers are still notable.

Democrats are outvoting the GOP by a margin of 2.5-to-1 in North Carolina, where early voting has been under way for a week. That's roughly double the margin from 2004.

More than 210,000 blacks who are registered as Democrats have cast early ballots in the Tar Heel State _ compared with roughly 174,000 registered Republicans overall. Four years ago, the number of GOP early and absentee voters was more than double that of black Democrats.