Early, absentee voting pushed Obama to win in Fla.

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MIAMI – More Floridians voted for John McCain than Barack Obama on Election Day, but the Democrat sealed his victory in the state by winning more early and absentee votes.

An Associated Press study of 94 percent of the state's total shows that the Republican beat Obama by almost 5 percentage points on Nov. 4, but Obama trumped McCain by 11 percentage points in early and absentee balloting. Overall, Obama beat McCain 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent in Florida, becoming only the third Democrat in 11 presidential elections to carry the state.

The results reflect the Obama campaign's heavy emphasis on early voting in critical states such as Florida, which had the most electoral votes of any swing state — 27 — and decided the presidency for George W. Bush in 2000.

The AP analyzed election results reported by 55 Florida counties, separating the absentee and early ballots from the votes cast on Election Day.

More than 2.6 million of Florida's 11.2 million registered voters cast their ballots in the early period between Oct. 20 and Nov. 2. Florida's total turnout for the presidential election was 8.4 million voters; it was not yet clear how many voters mailed in their ballots.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist had signed an executive order Oct. 28 extending early voting hours as record numbers of voters waited for hours in long lines. Democrats hope to make those extensions permanent when the state legislature meets next year.

Democrats also added 461,000 voters to their rolls, compared to 172,000 more Republicans.

In 2004, the difference between Election Day results and early and absentee balloting was negligible for both John Kerry and Bush, according to an AP analysis of election results. Bush carried Florida by 381,000 votes and bested Kerry by about 4 percentage points in the early voting and about 5 percentage points on Election Day. Bush won the state overall, 52.1 percent to Kerry's 47 percent.

More than a third of the votes cast in Florida in that election were cast early or by mail, taking advantage of a 2000 rule change allowing absentee ballot requests without having to prove that voting in person would be a hardship.

Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to McCain's 173.