Muriel Bowser’s Ward 4 should play a decisive role in a key citywide race. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Elections officials report that 52,739 District residents cast early votes by the time polls closed Saturday night. That last day saw nearly 12,000 voters come to the polls, creating waits of three hours or more at some locations.

Thanks to voter rolls provided by the D.C. Board of Elections, I can offer some statistics and analysis. Geographically speaking, here’s where the voters are (with turnout in italics):

Ward 4: 9,244 (16.0%)
Ward 5: 8,864 (18.7%)
Ward 6: 7,944 (13.8%)
Ward 3: 6,630 (10.5%)
Ward 1: 6,183 (9.8%)
Ward 7: 5,427 (7.8%)
Ward 8: 4,423 (7.7%)
Ward 2: 4,024 (7.1%)

Politically speaking, here’s where the voters are (with overall registration percentage in italics):

Democratic: 85.43% (75.07%)
No party: 9.70% (17.17%)
Republican: 4.15% (6.45%)
Statehood Green: 0.57% (0.89%)
Other: 0.15% (0.30%)

As you can see, the early voting electorate is significantly more Democratic than the registered voter base. In three wards — 5, 7 and 8 — the early voting electorate is at least 90 percent Democratic. In all wards, early Democratic turnout was better than average.

So what does all this mean in terms of predicting Tuesday’s results? Hard to say, since this is the first presidential election in the District with no-excuse early voting. (In 2008, “in-person absentee” voting was an option, albeit a less wieldy and popular one.) But there is of course nothing in the early voting totals to change the expectation (certainty?) that Barack Obama will win the District’s three electoral votes.

In terms of the closely-watched at-large D.C. Council race, the numbers indicate Ward 4 is again going to play a pivotal role.

(The Washington Post)

Always among the top-voting areas of the city, Ward 4 is also a place where incumbent independent Michael A. Brown needs to rack up a significant advantage. In 2008, Brown found about one in five of his votes in his home ward, and he will need to maintain a solid advantage there while expanding his advantage is lower-voting wards 7 and 8.

Ward 5 is overperforming its usual voter share in early balloting. That ward was Brown’s second-largest source of votes in 2008. This year his leading challenger, David Grosso, is a Ward 5 resident who is expecting to pick up major support in his home neighborhood of Brookland as well as the Bloomingdale and Eckington neighborhoods. Meanwhile, polling indicates Brown’s support has eroded in high-voting wards 3 and 6.

So again, Ward 4 is key. Need further proof? Tomorrow, according to Grosso’s schedule, he’s voting at his home precinct in Brookland before high-tailing it over to shake hands at three of Ward 4’s biggest precincts. He’s also ending his day in the ward, at a pair of southern precincts rich in residents who weren’t living in the area back in 2008.

Again: It’s all about Ward 4.