Early voting centers opened across Georgia last week and the vast majority of voters voted in person. Mail-in ballot requests have dropped significantly from previous election cycles.
While every demographic group and region of the state saw high turnout compared to 2018, there was an increase in turnout from women, black voters and voters over 50, according to a Washington Post analysis. The increases were greatest in the Atlanta area, while many counties in the state’s southwest and along the southeast coast far exceed their first vote tallies from 2018. The Cobb County, a fast-growing suburb of Atlanta, is going through both trends, having counted more than three times the number of ballots collected at the same time in 2018.
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Early voting is underway in several other states, though most aren’t releasing as much data as Georgia.
In Virginia, more than 411,000 people have voted so far, surpassing the total number of people who voted at the start of 2018, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. In North Carolina, more than 530,000 voters cast their ballots one way or another as of Monday, up from 590,000 this time in 2018, although early voting was offered for more days in this election.
In Texas, about 550,000 people voted, according to the state’s office of elections. By this point in 2018, more than 695,000 people had voted in Texas, showing a sharp drop in engagement between the midterm elections.
In Georgia, about 17% of voters who voted early had previously waited to vote on Election Day in 2018, while 17% of early voters this year did not vote in the last midterm elections, according to the GeorgiaVotes website, suggesting great enthusiasm and early commitment. The numbers also underscore how much voting habits have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and new election laws in the state.
“It’s only been four years, but the demographic transformation of the state has been quite rapid,” said Bernard L. Fraga, a professor of political science at Emory University who studies electoral law and voter turnout patterns. As Georgia’s population, political environment and laws have changed, so has voter behavior, Fraga said.
Georgian lawmakers enacted a sweeping election law last year this added requirements and restrictions for provisional or mail-in voting, leading many voting rights groups to worry that these voting methods were too cumbersome for many voters and vulnerable to legal challenges.
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“Communities of color may feel they need to come forward and mobilize lest something might happen to their vote,” Fraga said, while “some white, more Republican, voters who turned up early might wait to vote on Election Day because of these tales of “voter fraud” espoused by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
But most Republican campaigns in the state also want their supporters to vote early. Republican leaders in Georgia have blocked Trump from rallying in their state for fear that his false allegations of voter fraud will cause loyal GOP voters to lose faith in the electoral process and not vote.
The early engagement has excited many Democrats, who see it as a sign of successful mobilization.
“It was always our intention — to create a great week one — and then continue to build it,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Groh-Wargo said the campaign expects voters who participate in every election to do so. during the first week, allowing the groups to focus on voters who traditionally vote on Election Day or who do not vote altogether.
Republicans also say they believe the high vote count will benefit them. They touted the turnout as a sign that Democrats’ accusations of voter suppression in Georgia are unfounded.
“As Stacey Abrams continues to spread the myth of voter suppression in Georgia, the 2022 general election has seen another record turnout so far,” said Tate Mitchell, press secretary for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. , who is running for re-election.
Abrams pushed back against these criticisms. On Monday, she greeted the “extraordinary participation” while affirming that “repression is a question of barriers. If these barriers are not completely successful, the credit does not go to those who erected them. Credit goes to the voters who found a way to navigate, overwhelm and overcome these obstacles. »
In interviews with more than four dozen Georgians who voted early at six polling places in the greater Atlanta area last week, nearly all said they usually vote early, but were especially impatient this year to vote as soon as possible.
Tonya Stevens said she had a “refreshing” experience voting early in Clarkston, Georgia. Although she said she had encountered long lines and mishandling from poll workers in the past, she had a smooth experience voting. Stevens said she was thrilled to vote for Abrams “because she is a hard worker and believes in the rights of all citizens.”
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Joseph Dickinson said it was “extremely easy” to vote in Forsyth County, north of Atlanta, during the first week of early voting. Dickinson, 33, said he found it harder to vote in neighboring Dawson County in the 2020 presidential election due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although he’s normally a Libertarian voter, he said, he voted Republican this year “because Georgia did pretty well.” I feel good.”
Many Atlanta-area counties had little to no wait times at most polling places, according to county election and registration office tracking sites and statements to The Post, unlike to recent cycles, when many voters waited several hours to vote. . Some election and registration centers, however, posted wait times of up to an hour on some days last week. Georgians can vote early at any polling place in their county, but must vote in their respective precinct on Election Day.
“In Georgia, a lot of people think the vote is suppressed. And I personally think it’s quite the opposite,” said Nora Culver, curator and dental office manager from Stone Mountain, Georgia, who cast her ballot early Friday. Culver, who supports the new voting law, said: “One of the controversies was that you couldn’t accept food or drink online. Well, who does that anyway? Nobody wants food. I mean, just stupid stuff.
Kayla Smith, a graduate student from Atlanta, said that although she had voted by mail in previous elections because of her education, she returned to her home county this year to ensure her vote was cast correctly. account. “I wanted to physically see my ballot being done,” she said.
Smith, a recent graduate of Spelman College, said with several competitive races on the ballot, she was excited to support Democrats, especially Abrams, also a Spelman graduate, and Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), who attended nearby Morehouse College.
“I see the power of the vote,” Smith said. “We know what the stakes are this time. And I think that’s been a common theme in the votes since 2020.”
Bronner reported from Washington.