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Donald Trump campaigns Thursday in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton swings into the battleground state of Iowa for an event in Des Moines.

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Hillary Clinton pumps up early voting in Iowa, where she trails Donald Trump

 (Joe Burbank / Associated Press)
(Joe Burbank / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton didn’t want to leave anything to chance when she arrived here for a rally on the first day of early voting in Iowa. Her campaign stationed volunteers around her downtown rally to direct members of the audience to nearby polling places to submit their ballots.

“When you finish here, you can go vote,” she told the crowd of roughly 2,000. “We can be on the path to victory here in Iowa.”

President Obama won Iowa in 2008 and 2012, but Clinton is trailing Donald Trump in the state, lagging five percentage points behind in a Real Clear Politics average of polls.

She hopes voting early can give her campaign an edge, but mail ballots haven’t kept pace with previous elections.

About 54,000 Democrats had requested absentee ballots as of Friday, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. That’s far more than Republican voters, but about half of what Democratic voters requested at this point four years ago. Democrats rely on early voting more than Republicans in this state.

Nationwide, early voting could play a larger role in the campaign, said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs the Elections Project. The earliest ballots could be cast was in North  Carolina, where residents could vote by mail as soon as Sept. 9.

“The volume of early voting is going to be very high in a number of states,” he said.

Census data show 30% of voters cast ballots before election day in 2008, and 32% in 2012. McDonald estimates about 34% will do the same this year as the method becomes more popular and widely available.

David Chico, 64, has been going door to door and working the phones for the Clinton campaign to get more early voters in Iowa.

“It’s more convenient,” he said, and ensures the ballot gets cast even if someone runs into a scheduling conflict on election day.

Joanne Peterson, 59, has already filled out her absentee ballot and mailed it in for Clinton. She likes the “comfort level it gives the party” – she’s one fewer person the campaign needs to spend precious resources on to ensure she votes.

“The more people that have voted, the better,” she said. “It’s a boost of energy. I try to help.”

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