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Voters across the country have been crowding into polling places and mailing in ballots in numbers rarely seen in an off-year election, pointing toward a possible record turnout for Tuesday’s contest and leaving operatives from across the political spectrum trying to read tea leaves to figure out what it means.

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Democrat Katie Porter takes a photo with a volunteer at her campaign’s Tustin corporate office park headquarters Saturday.
Democrat Katie Porter takes a photo with a volunteer at her campaign’s Tustin corporate office park headquarters Saturday. (Victoria Kim / Los Angeles Times)

Democratic House candidate Katie Porter rallied with volunteers Saturday during a canvassing kickoff at her campaign’s Tustin  headquarters. Porter, a UC Irvine law professor and consumer protection attorney is challenging two-term incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach).

The race in the 45th Congressional District is one of several in California that are key in the battle over which party will control the House after the midterm election.

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  • Midterm Election

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visited Escondido on Saturday to help Democratic congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar kick off his get-out-the-vote push on Saturday. Campa-Najjar is challenging Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) for his seat in the conservative 50th Congressional District.

  • Midterm Election

Democratic House candidate Gil Cisneros kicked off what is sure to be a weekend of intense campaigning by participating in a 5k run put on by a local nonprofit in Fullerton. Cisneros, 47, is in a tight race with Republican Young Kim, 56, for the 39th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Ed Royce, who is retiring.

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  • Midterm Election

In this and every election, both sides devote huge resources to getting their partisans to turn out and vote — “motivating the base,” in the jargon of politics.

They’ve held hundreds of rallies including a massive gathering on the National Mall, appeared with Trevor Noah and other late-night television hosts, and challenged elected officials to face-to-face debate.

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 Voters cast ballots early in Atlanta.
Voters cast ballots early in Atlanta. (Jessica McGowan / Getty Images)

Election day is less than a week away, but more than 27 million Americans are apparently so psyched or angry or frightened or inspired or whatever drives people to the polls that they have already cast their ballots.

Early voting has become an increasingly regular part of campaigns, a way for some to avoid last-minute hassles at their polling place or, perhaps, knowing they have hip surgery scheduled for election day, to ensure they make their voice heard by voting absentee.

Turnout for the midterm vote, at the halfway point of a president’s four-year term, typically falls off drastically from a presidential election. But early turnout is running unusually high this fall, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the heated sentiments on both sides. Eighteen states have already surpassed their early-vote totals from 2014, the last midterm election; a handful — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Texas — could surpass the total votes cast in 2014 even before Tuesday rolls around.

Two years ago, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa kept his seat by 1,621 votes, making the race in his sprawling coastal 49th District in Orange and San Diego counties the closet congressional tally in the nation that year.