Record early voting ends, setting the stage for Georgia’s 2022 high-stakes election day

The primaries for Georgia’s governor, secretary of state, congress, state legislature and a host of other races on Tuesday are expected to draw large numbers of voters to the polls after a record early voting turnout.

The Secretary of State reported that as of Friday, the last day of the three-week early voting period, more than 710,000 people had cast their ballots in Georgia, a 180% increase from the same time in the 2018 primary and a 149% increase. is equivalent to. Increase from same point in 2020 primaries.

For much of the early voting, queues were minimal; In recent days, however, lines have started to lengthen at places like the Gwinnett County Elections Office, where some voters said they waited an hour or more to cast their ballot.

Republican turnout far outstripped that of Democrats, by 406,388 to 299,232. A higher percentage of voters who normally vote for Democrats cast GOP ballots, with attention-getting races and the Trump Effect playing high on the ticket. These include a gubernatorial primary in which Gov. Brian Kemp has a healthy lead over Donald Trump-backed former US Senator David Perdue, and a US Senate GOP primary led by the former University of Georgia Soccer star Herschel Walker.

Meanwhile, Democratic front-runner Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor, and US Senator Raphael Warnock could claim victory in the primary election, while a runoff election in June saw the crowded field of candidates for Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Attorney General Lieutenant Governor is expected

DeKalb County voter Amelia Dunbar said Friday that she avoided voting for the less extreme Republicans and focused on the Democratic candidate she saw with a reasonable chance of defeating her opponent in the fall. prefer.

“This election is important to the direction our state is moving, so I voted for the lead candidates who I thought would have the best odds of winning,” said the 42-year-old, who works in medical billing .

Overall, voters reported last week that they were able to cast their ballots successfully, despite concerns ranging from the need for more voting machines to be available to a more difficult postal voting procedureone of the changes in the 2021 GOP lawmakers voting law revision, which faces its first statewide test in the primary.

GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger celebrated the strong turnout as early voting ended.

Raffensperger opposed President Donald Trump’s requests to overturn the 2020 presidential election while campaigning for changes to Senate Bill 202. He faces voter fraud, conspiracy theorists US Rep. Jody Hice and former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.

Total early voting included more than 655,000 ballots cast in person and an additional 54,000 absentee ballots.

“The record early election turnout is a testament to the security of the voting system and the hard work of our county election officials,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “As Secretary of State, I promised to strike a strong balance between access and security in our elections, and these numbers show that I have kept that promise and that voters have confidence in Georgia’s elections.”

David Levine, an election integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a former elections official, said the early turnout was particularly impressive given so much misinformation about the election and the new election law making it even more difficult to access the ballot box.

“This is important because when Georgia voters vote in large numbers during early voting, it means existing processes are being tested ahead of time,” Levine said. “If there’s a problem there, whether it’s with a ballot book, with a device, or with a poll worker, hopefully poll officials can see and adjust.”

With absentee ballots allowed until 7 p.m. Election Day, numbers will continue to rise but fall far short of 2020, when a record 1.1 million voters in a presidential primary in the early stages of the pandemic led to mail-in ballot requests being submitted sent to every active registered voter.

Mail-in voting rejection rates will become one of the measures of the impact of Senate Bill 202, as the new bill adds an ID requirement that the signature be written in ink, and a 2020 emergency rule made 24 hours a day, further restricts clock drop boxes widely used.

“If you end up restricting access, you should have scientific arguments that are justified on either security or access-related grounds,” Levine said.

For poll workers, the new law means they must tab ballots throughout the night and meet a 5 p.m. deadline the day after the election. Supporters of the new accelerated deadline say it will inspire more confidence in the electoral system, as opposed to a lengthy process that often played out in 2020.

But these new rules are putting more pressure, particularly on county poll workers in larger metropolitan areas, where election supervisors may need to coordinate staggered shifts to avoid overworking staff after a “busy” “election day.”

Provisional ballot papers can now only be cast after 5 p.m. on election day. The new rules will also prove a challenge for poll workers, who must navigate sometimes confusing regulations.

The new deadline for certification has been moved from 10 days to 6 days after election day.

Before‌ ‌heading‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌polls‌ ‌or‌ ‌submitting absentee ballots on Tuesday, voters are encouraged to review their registration information on the secretary of state’s website to ensure their information is accurate,‌ ‌know‌ ‌their‌ ‌correct‌ ‌polling‌ ‌place‌ ‌and‌ ‌also‌ ‌research‌ ‌new‌ ‌rules‌ ‌that‌ ‌might impact‌ ‌their‌ ‌vote, said Cecilia Aguilera, an attorney at the Fair Elections Center.

The non-profit organization has created a guide for Georgia voters.

Aguilera said it’s a myth that electoral laws that erect more voting barriers aim to influence large numbers of voters, so it misses the point of using large turnout numbers to address concerns about voter suppression . The real test of Senate Bill 202’s impact will come on Election Day, when many of its rules will have a more significant factor.

“It makes it harder for a few 100’s or a few thousand people on the fringes to vote because they have some kind of barrier that they can’t cross,” she said. “It may be that they have more to do to vote and they have so much to do in their lives like family matters, work that they just give up and feel apathetic.”

In the final week of early voting, Cobb County Republican Party Chair Salleigh Grubbs expressed concern about this Ballot with a wrong candidatemissing city-building referendums and several instances where the statewide voter check-in system across Georgia was temporarily shut down.

Various counties also experienced voting problems, exacerbated by a delayed start of the US Census and US Census subsequent redistribution procedure this made it harder to update local maps in time for the primary.

Scores of Georgians said they could not see sample ballot papers on the Foreign Minister’s website.

“While the issues can be considered minor, I personally believe this indicates a systemic failure,” Grubbs said at a meeting of the state Elections Committee on Wednesday.

While some candidate names did not initially appear on the ballots, there were also questions about the chain of custody for mail-in ballots. Many county poll workers struggled to keep operations running while they dealt with software issues, said Republican State Election Committee member Janice Johnston.

“In this atmosphere of partisan tension, we must do everything we can to simplify the process, make it transparent for all candidates and parties, and ensure that electoral laws and regulations are respected,” she said.

Most election-related issues are normal during the election, but the new county boundaries have created unique issues that will need to adjust as counties re-elect, prosecutor Ryan Germany said last week.

“Because of the delay in the census, we had a shortened redistribution cycle,” he said. “Counties have been working diligently to complete this redistribution as quickly as possible.”