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First lady tells students to vote early, volunteer often

Scott Olson / Getty Images

First lady Michelle Obama greets supporters during a rally on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa on Friday.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- On a college swing Friday in Iowa and Wisconsin, first lady Michelle Obama pushed students to take advantage of early voting laws in their states, warning the election will be close and dosing out some mother-knows-best advice.

"As I tell my children: don't procrastinate," she told a crowd of several thousand people inside a basketball arena here at the University of Northern Iowa. 

It was a convenient proposition, because a so-called satellite voting station was open -- for only one day -- in a nearby campus building. 

"Right after I'm done speaking I want you all to walk out that main door.  Follow the volunteers," Obama said, adding later that voting early would free supporters to focus on grassroots efforts.  

"Multiply yourselves," she said.  "Find five more friends that you know aren't registered."

About 160 people -- most of them students -- gathered at the polling station after Obama's speech.  They were led there by a local dance troupe, drumming and clinging bells along the way.

"I knew I wanted to vote before November 6th, but the fact that they set this up makes it all the easier to just walk down," said Matt Danz, a senior at the university, as he waited on line to cast his vote. 

Early voting began in Iowa on Thursday, and the first lady's push was another indication that the Obama campaign is making a concerted play at collecting votes before election day.

A Democratic official confirmed to NBC News that the polling station had been created by the Obama campaign in conjunction with the first lady's visit -- per an Iowa law that allows voting sites to be established via petition.

Saturday, the campaign will launch an early voting bus tour, making stops in Sioux City and Council Bluffs.

Later Friday, Obama urged students at Lawrence University, in Appelton, WI, to make sure friends and family are registered to vote -- and to vote early there, too.

"Here's the plan -- the secret plan," she said, urging media to "turn off your cameras."

"Just kidding," she continued, adding, "we're going to need every single one of you to work like you've never worked before."

Early voting will begin in late October in Wisconsin.