Undeterred by long lines and hours of waiting, Georgia voters shattered old records for early-vote turnout by midweek.
With two days left to vote in the contentious senate runoff between U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker, one state election official predicted voter turnout would reach 1 million by Wednesday.
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“We are closing in on a million total votes cast in the runoff and will pass that number this afternoon,” Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, tweeted Wednesday.
Georgia voters managed to shatter records throughout the week. On Monday, some 303,166 voters turned out. Tuesday’s turnout was 300,588. By Wednesday morning, a total of 770,745 voters had cast early-vote ballots in person.
Charles Bullock, the dean of Georgia political observers, said the record-setting turnout may prove to be “good news” for Democrats.
“Democrats like to vote early in-person,” Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, told State Affairs. “Republicans who don’t trust the system think it’s better to wait and vote on Election Day.”
About 30 counties were open for early voting over this past weekend, Bullock noted. “All five of the big Democratic counties were open and two thirds of all the votes cast over the weekend came from those big five counties.” Those counties are Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.
Douglas County, which had the most days of early voting — including Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, had the highest percentage of registered voter turnout for counties with populations over 100,000, making it number one in the state, Sterling noted.
By Wednesday evening, more than 20,000 voters cast their vote in Douglas, election director Milton Kidd told State Affairs.
But Kidd noted it’s been crunch time for his staff who had to do a major turnaround in short order after the Nov. 8 general election. Georgia’s Election Integrity law cut runoffs from nine weeks to four weeks.
“I would like the state to reconsider the timeframe for a runoff,” Kidd said. “They did not understand exactly how much work has to go into being ready for a runoff election.”
If you haven’t voted yet, there’s still time. You can still vote early today and Friday. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday, Dec. 6, to vote in the general runoff. Bring your driver’s license, state identification or other form of ID. State law also requires employers to give workers time off to vote if their work hours occur during voting hours.
Pack a snack, water and your patience. If as a bystander you are attempted to give a voter waiting in line food or water, don’t. It could lead to a year in jail.
Anyone 75+ or disabled can skip the line and go straight to check in and to voting.
To find early voting locations and hours in your county, visit the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page.
Contact Tammy Joyner on Twitter @LVJOYNER.
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