This year Barack Obama made history as the first president to vote early and a record number of other Americans have done the same. As Ann Gerhart writes, the concept of a single ‘Election Day’ gave way to weeks and weeks of early voting:

[It] was inevitable that Election Day would become a relic of community solidarity. This is the year it’s finally, irrefutably, finished.

More than 30 million people have already cast ballots, a record in the early-voting sweepstakes. What’s more, we have a good idea of how they voted, through scrutiny of the party identification of those who showed up in person or returned absentee ballots.

President Obama helped stick a fork in the concept of Election Day a week before Halloween, when he made history as the first U.S. president to vote early, in Chicago. (He was asked for, and produced, ID.)

Two states vote only by mail, the citizens of Oregon and Washington folding and stuffing and stamping alone. In three states — Idaho, South Dakota and Vermont — people have been going to the polls for more than six weeks. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia offer a full buffet of options for balloting before Election Day, and this year many of the holdouts have capitulated to the wrath of a hurricane. In New Jersey,you can vote by e-mail.

What was once accepted and celebrated as a unifying American moment has been derided this year as an anachronism smacking of fustiness at best and suppression at worst.

The Associated Press has also reported on the shift toward early voting, and the significant change this signals from past U.S. elections:

Tuesday is the culmination of months and years of effort and elbow grease and strategizing and big spending, distilled into a 24-hour period. But this year, chunks of the day’s proceedings have trickled out beforehand in the form of early and absentee voting, more than ever before. And if the race is close as the polls say, we might not even get to experience the election-night Hollywood ending we generally crave.

... To give you a sense of how Election Day has changed as the nation has grown, consider this: In 1932, 22.8 million Americans cast votes for Franklin Roosevelt and 15.8 million for Herbert Hoover — a total of 39.8 million votes, if you factor in other candidates. This year, according to projections Monday from George Mason University, 46.8 million Americans — more than one-third of those expected to cast ballots — will have voted by the time the first polls open Tuesday morning. To resurrect an overused phrase, this isn’t your grandfather’s Election Day.

As Aaron Blake writes for the Fix, the early vote numbers suggest a close race:

Here’s the overarching takeaway: In basically every state where we have good data available, Democrats performed worse than they did in 2008 but better than they did in 2010. And if you extrapolate the shift to the entire statewide vote, we’ve got a very close race in store.

This makes sense. After all, both 2008 and 2010 were wave election years, in which Democrats and Republicans, respectively, made massive gains. So the 2012 early vote was almost destined to fall somewhere in the middle.

And in almost every case, the 2012 early vote is either smack-dab in the middle of the 2008 and 2010 numbers or very close.

* In Colorado, Democrats won the early vote by two in 2008 and lost it by six in 2010. This year, they’re right in the middle, trailing by two. (Reminder: this is simply the number of registered Democrats and Republicans casting ballots and doesn’t directly reflect which party is gaining more votes.)

* In Iowa, Democrats won the early vote by 18 points in 2008 and by six in 2010. This year, they lead it by 10.

* In North Carolina, the 17-point Democratic margin is between their 2008 margin (21 points) and their 2010 margin (nine points).

* In Florida, Democrats’ four-point edge is less than 2008 (nine points) but significantly better than their 12-point early vote loss in 2010.

Post reporter Jenna Johnson zooms in on the early-voting numbers in Iowa:

Many Iowans have already voted. As of the end of the day on Monday, 673,124 Iowans had cast their ballots, a nearly 25 percent increase from the 2008 election. Final turnout for that election was around 1.5 million.

Donna St. George takes a look at how early voting has shaped the Nevada race:

In much-watched Nevada, the sun will rise on Election Day with most votes already cast.

This year, more than 700,000 of the state’s roughly one million expected voters have already weighed in at the ballot box, according to state figures released over the weekend. That’s a record high, said David Damore, an associate professor of political science at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who studies campaigns and elections.

How the vote will break down is not clear yet, but the state released the party affiliations of those who voted, and Democrats had a large lead — 70,000 — in populous Clark County, where Las Vegas is located.

Still, Damore says a more telling political indicator may be the numbers from Washoe County, where Reno is located. Republicans and Democrats were neck-and-neck there — which amps up pressure on the GOP for election day.

And Ed O’Keefe writes about the scale and impact of early voting in Ohio:

At least 1.6 million Ohioans have cast early ballots this election year, a sum on track to top figures from four years ago, state officials said Saturday.

In addition to the more than 495,000 residents who have voted at designated voting centers across the state, 85.5 percent of the more than 1.3 million absentee ballots mailed to voters have been filled out and sent back, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. “Voting has gone smoothly in Ohio, and we expect that trend to continue through the close of the polls on Election Day,” Husted said in a statement Saturday.

In Allen County, which encompasses Lima, just shy of 13,000 voters had cast early ballots either in person or by mail, and local officials anticipated the numbers would easily pass 14,000 by the end of Monday.

You can keep up to date on all the results as they come in by going to our 2012 election map.