Early voting centers opened across Georgia last week and the vast majority of voters cast their votes in person. Mail-in-vote requests have dropped significantly from previous election cycles.
While every demographic and region of the state has seen higher turnout from 2018, there has been a surge in attendance from women, black voters and voters over the age of 50, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The increases were greatest in the Atlanta area, with many counties in the state’s southwest and along the southeast coast far surpassing their early 2018 vote counts. Cobb County, a fast-growing suburb of Atlanta, bucks both trends and has counted more. than three times the number of ballots collected at the same point in 2018.
Analysis: Georgia’s early electorate looks more like 2018 than 2020
Several other states vote early, though most don’t release as much data as Georgia.
In Virginia, more than 411,000 people have voted so far, more than the total number of people who voted in early 2018, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. In North Carolina, more than 530,000 voters had voted one way or another as of Monday, up from 590,000 as of 2018, although early voting was offered for more days during that election.
About 550,000 people voted in Texas, according to the state election bureau. At this point in 2018, more than 695,000 people had voted in Texas, showing a sharp decline in midterm election engagement.
In Georgia, about 17 percent of voters who cast their ballots early had previously waited to vote on Election Day in 2018, while an additional 17 percent of this year’s early voters did not vote in the latest midterm elections, according to the website GeorgiaVotes, suggesting high enthusiasm and early involvement. The numbers also underscore how voting patterns have changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and new voting 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 climate and laws have changed, voters’ behavior has followed, Fraga said.
Georgian lawmakers passed sweeping voting law last year that added requirements and restrictions for casting a preliminary or mail-in vote, leading many voting rights groups to worry that those voting methods were too cumbersome for many voters and vulnerable to legal challenges.
Expand access? A historical limitation? What the Georgian voting law really does.
“Communities of color may think they should go out and mobilize for fear that something could happen to their vote,” Fraga said, while “some white, more Republican voters who would have come earlier are waiting to vote on Election Day.” because of these voter fraud stories,” embraced by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
But most Republican campaigns in the state also want their supporters to vote early. Georgian Republican leaders barred Trump from rallying in their state for fear his false claims about voter fraud would cause loyal GOP voters to lose confidence in the election process and not vote.
The early involvement has excited many Democrats, who see it as a sign of a successful mobilization.
“This has always been our intention — to create a great Week One — and then build on it,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, campaign manager for Democratic governor candidate Stacey Abrams.
Groh-Wargo said the campaign had expected voters participating in every election to do so in the first week, allowing groups to focus on reaching voters who traditionally vote on Election Day or skip voting altogether.
Republicans also say they think the high vote numbers will benefit them. They have touted the turnout as a sign that accusations of voter suppression in Georgia by Democrats are unfounded.
“While 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, Republican administration press secretary Brian Kemp, who is running for reelection. .
Abrams has resisted such criticism. On Monday she praised the “extraordinary turnout” while arguing that “oppression is about barriers. If those barriers aren’t completely successful, the credit doesn’t go to those who erected the barriers. The credit goes to those voters who found a way through those barriers.” navigate, overwhelm and conquer them.”
In interviews with more than four dozen Georgians who voted early last week at six polling stations in the greater Atlanta area, nearly all said they usually vote early, but this year were especially excited to get their vote out as soon as possible.
Tonya Stevens said she had a “refreshing” experience with voices in early Clarkston, Georgia. Although she said she had encountered long lines and mismanagement of polling station members in the past, she had a smooth experience casting her vote. Stevens said she was excited to vote for Abrams “because she is a hard worker and believes in rights for all citizens.”
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Joseph Dickinson said it was “extremely easy” to cast his vote in Forsyth County, north of Atlanta, during the first week of the early voting. Dickinson, 33, said he found it more difficult to vote in neighboring Dawson County during the 2020 presidential election due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although he was normally a libertarian voter, he said he voted for the Republicans this year “because Georgia has done quite well. I feel good about it.”
Many counties in the Atlanta area had little to no wait times at most polling stations, according to county election tracking and registration bureau sites and statements to The Post, in stark contrast to recent cycles when many voters waited several hours to cast their votes. . However, some election and registration centers have reported wait times of up to an hour on some days over the past week. Georgians can vote early at any polling station in their province, but they must vote in their respective district on Election Day.
“In Georgia, many people think that the mood is suppressed. And I personally think it’s the exact opposite,” said Nora Culver, a Stone Mountain, Georgia conservative and dental assistant, who voted early Friday. Culver, who supports the new voting law, said: “One of the controversies was that you couldn’t accept food or drink in line. Well, who actually does that? Nobody wants to eat. I mean, just stupid stuff.”
Kayla Smith, an Atlanta graduate student, said that although she had voted by mail in previous elections because of her studies, she returned to her native country this year to ensure her vote was counted correctly. “I wanted to physically see my vote being cast,” she said.
Smith, a recent graduate of Spelman College, said that with multiple competitive races on the ballot, she was excited to support Democrats, especially Abrams, also a Spelman graduate, and Senator Raphael G. Warnock (D), who is moving to neighboring Morehouse. went to college.
“I do see the power of voting,” Smith said. “We know what’s at stake this time. And I think that’s been a common theme in voting since 2020.”
Bronner reported that from Washington.