It's too early to draw strong conclusions, but it's a good bet that early voting in Ohio will surpass 2008 levels. More than 10 percent of Ohio's registered voters — 723,000 including military personnel and overseas residents — have mailed applications for absentee ballots to county election boards, according to the office of Secretary of State Jon Husted. In 2008, about 30 percent of Ohio voters cast absentee ballots by mail or
voted early in person.

This year's early in-person voting begins Tuesday.

Husted, a Republican, has drawn serious heat from Democrats who have charged him with attempted voter suppression for a series measures — including an end to in-person voting on the final weekend before the election — that have been reversed by court decisions. Last month, his office sent absentee applications to the state's 6 million registered voters in an effort to bring some uniformity to the early voting process,
said spokesman Matt McClellan.

"You had some situations where some counties were sending voters absentee ballot applications and some weren't," McClellan said.

Much of the early action is in Cuyahoga (Cleveland) and Hamilton (Cincinnati) counties. In Hamilton, absentee ballot requests are running ahead of the 2008 pace by 3 to 1, according to Board of Elections director Amy Searcy. As of this morning, her office had received 58,727 requests. Of those, 9,453 were from voters who requested Democratic ballots in primaries this year, and 17,824 from voters seeking Republican ballots. The rest were nonpartisan.

The nearly 2 to 1 partisan split mirrors current registration in the county, which is about 98,000 Republican and 45,000 Democratic. But Searcy cautioned against reading too much into any of these early figures because they will almost certainly shift. She said the low Democratic numbers reflect the minimal interest in spring primaries.

"There are a lot more people who identify as Democrats," she said. "It's all a snapshot."

Cognizant of the high stakes surrounding the early vote, both campaigns are all over the state this week. The Post's Philip Rucker reports that at a Romney rally this morning in the central Ohio town of Westerville, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) urged the crowd to cast early ballots.

"I've got a question: How many of you still have an application for an absentee ballot? Let’s see those hands, you've gotta do it, we have those applications here today," Portman said. "Do it for yourself, do it for your friends, do it for your neighbors, do it for the folks you go to work with. Help people vote. We need to bag those votes, don’t we? We've got to win this one.”