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Election campaign signs line front lawns of homes along Dufferin St. south of Eglinton Ave. West on Oct 2 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto voters are rushing to the polls in record numbers, with 28,046 casting ballots on the first day of advance voting.

The turnout is up sharply from the 2010 municipal election, when the City of Toronto said only about 16,000 voters cast ballots during the six weekdays of advance polling, and about 77,000 ballots were cast during the entire advance period.

Only about 42,000 votes were cast in advance polls for the 2006 election.

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If the spike that started on Tuesday holds, the city could be on its way to the best turnout in a municipal election in decades. Overall turnout in 2010 was 50.6 per cent, while only 39.3 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in 2006.

There are about 1.6-million eligible voters on the rolls.

"A very high voter turnout in the advance polls is usually indicative of the organizational strengths of the campaigns delivering their votes," pollster Nik Nanos said. "If you're the front-runner, you want to get as many of your voters out in the advance polls as possible, in case there's a misstep in the close of the campaign."

While some on social media took the turnout to auger well for John Tory, Mr. Nanos cautioned: "We don't know which campaigns are strong in organization, and whose voters are the most motivated."

A poll last week by Mainstreet Technologies suggested a much higher percentage of John Tory's supporters were likely to vote, while those favouring Olivia Chow and Doug Ford were more inclined to stay on the sidelines: Of those declaring themselves "certain" to cast a ballot, 45 per cent said they were voting for Mr. Tory, while 26 per cent were backing Mr. Ford and 20 per cent favoured Ms. Chow. But 25 per cent of those who said they were "unlikely" to vote supported Mr. Ford; Mr. Tory was favoured by only five per cent of the "unlikely" voters.

Still, observers suggested the polls themselves might spur people to vote if they felt their candidate's success was in the balance.

Turnout in the first day of advance polling was highest in the city's Ward 25 (where three per cent of eligible voters cast ballots on Tuesday), which strongly supported Rob Ford in the 2010 election. But it was also high in Ward 16 (2.5 per cent), Ward 22 (2.5 per cent), and Ward 21 (2.5 per cent), which were taken by Mr. Ford's rival George Smitherman.

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Turnout was lowest in Ward 17 (1.3 per cent), Ward 15 (1.3 per cent), and Ward 12 (1.3 per cent) – all of which voted in 2010 for Rob Ford.

Advance voting continues every day until until Oct. 17 at City Hall, and until Oct. 19 in each ward.

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