(WASHINGTON) — With less than three weeks until the midterm elections, Georgians are already casting their ballots at a fast pace — with vote counts on Tuesday surpassing 2020 presidential election records for the second day of early voting, surging to nearly twice the early vote totals of 2018 at the same point.
The outcome of Georgia’s Senate race could be critical in deciding the balance of power in Washington.
As Georgia entered its third day of early in-person voting on Wednesday, over 291,700 people have voted — 268,050 in person and 23,690 absentee. In 2020, the early vote numbers after the second day were 266,403, and in 2018 they were 147,289, according to the secretary of state’s office.
“We’re extremely pleased that so many Georgians are able to cast their votes, in record numbers and without any reports of substantial delays,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “This is a testament to the hard work of Georgia’s election workers, the professionals who keep our elections convenient and secure.”
Georgia’s second day of early voting totals marks a 75.3% increase from that same point in 2018 early midterm voting and an “astounding” 3.3% increase from the second day of early voting in the 2020 presidential election, the state’s top elections official said.
University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who oversees the school’s U.S. Elections Project, said midterm elections typically turn out far fewer voters than during years when a presidential election is held, though recent numbers indicate a growing trend of participation over the past few cycles.
The state hit totals of 131,318 on Monday, its first day of early voting. That’s slightly smaller than 2020’s 136,739 total and significantly higher than 2018’s 70,849 count.
“We have reviewed the turnout yesterday and we did set a midterm 1st day of early voting & we nearly hit the record for a Presidential,” said Gabe Sterling, with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, said in a tweet.
Georgia has a number of critical midterm races on the ballot this election cycle, with highly contested contests for Senate, House, the governor’s seat and the secretary of state’s position.
The state received pushback in 2021, when Republican Gov. Brian Kemp — currently up for reelection against voting rights activist Stacey Abrams — signed into law a sweeping elections bill that Democrats widely deemed as restrictive, noting the legislation increases regulations on mail voting. The bill also imposed requirements to try and keep poll lines shorter and increase the availability of poll workers.
Statewide reports show lines have been mostly short so far, though some voters have waited to vote for up to an hour. In one of Georgia’s largest counties, Gwinnett, wait times were about 30 minutes at the county’s Registrations and Elections Office. Many other polling locations show no wait times at all.
The new voting law also limits drop box locations, cuts back on voting hours and days and bans handing out food and drinks to voters waiting in line. State party leaders say the voting numbers show people are overcoming barriers not that they don’t exist, arguing voter suppression is not synonymous with turnout.
Primary voter turnout this year — the first test of Democratic predictions that the bill’s heightened requirements might restrict voting — exceeded previous voting records, leaving Republicans to push back on the allegations.
“[Stacey] Abrams and President [Joe] Biden lied to the people of Georgia and the country for political gain,” Raffensperger said. “From day one, I said that Georgia’s election law balanced security and access, and the facts have proved me right.”
Esosa Osa, the deputy executive director of Fair Fight — founded by Abrams in 2014 — has said that as primary turnout grew in Geor—gia, so did the turnout gap between white and Black voters.
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