WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 1.2 million Ohio residents have already voted in the state which is seen as one of the most crucial in deciding the November 6 presidential election.

The Ohio Secretary of State's office said that as of October 26, about 1.26 million voters had cast ballots by mail-in absentee ballots or through early in-person voting. That represents about 22 percent of the number of people who voted in the 2008 presidential election.

Secretary Jon Husted said the pace of early voting was picking up ahead of next week's election. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 5 or they can be delivered in person to the board of elections until the close of polls on November 6.

The Secretary of State's office said 1.32 million absentee ballots had been sent out this year. About 64,000 have not yet been cast.

Ohio took the unusual step this election of sending out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. But if a resident requests an absentee ballot, then they must use it to vote. If a person who has requested an absentee ballot shows up at a polling place on Election Day, he or she will be given a provisional ballot.

Legal experts say that if the race is very close and hangs on the result in Ohio, it may have to wait until provisional ballots are counted. Under state law, they may not be counted until at least November 17.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Sandra Maler)