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Early Voting Has Broken Records in Georgia

When the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature passed a number of laws to suppress the vote, they were confident of this helping them win elections going forward. It may not have worked as planned. Early voting in the Peach State has been huge, breaking record after record in the compressed early-voting period. Statewide, that was last week, Monday through Friday, with some counties also allowing voting the weekend before. Early voting stopped last Friday because Republican legislators wanted to prevent Black churches from running buses from churches to the polls the Sunday before the election, the so-called "souls to the polls" runs.

More than 1.4 million people have already voted, a sign of strong turnout. Over 300,000 people voted last Monday and another 300,000 voted last Tuesday, the highest daily early-voting totals in state history. Nevertheless, the majority of people are expected to vote on Election Day. In the 2021 runoff between now-senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and then-senator Kelly Loeffler, 4.5 million votes were cast in total.

Turnout was especially high around Atlanta and in other Democratic-leaning areas. Through last Thursday, Black voters were 32.4% of the early vote. Although both candidates are Black, Black voters skew heavily Democratic. In exit polls from the Nov. 8 general election, 90% of Black voters cast their ballots for Warnock. Republicans tend to vote pretty heavily on Election Day, but building up a big lead before that happens is always valuable. The Georgia weather forecast puts the chance of rain on Tuesday at 91% for Atlanta, 69% for Augusta, 61% for Macon, 24% for Columbus, and 15% for Savannah. Rain can reduce turnout, especially if it is heavy and lines are long. Votes already banked are not subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature.

The counties where Herschel Walker (R) did best in the general election—Cherokee, Forsyth, and Hall—have seen high turnout, but less than Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett, where Warnock won the general election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) used the fact that turnout was breaking records to claim that the recent changes in Georgia election law were not designed to suppress turnout and, in fact, haven't. In reality, they were designed to suppress turnout and have worked to some extent. There were 2.2 million early voters before the Nov. 8 general election and only 1.4 million for the runoff, primarily because the early voting period for the runoff was only 1 week vs. 3 weeks for the early general election voting. For the 2021 runoff, it was 2 weeks, but with a longer interval after the general election before it started, which allowed people who hadn't registered to register, including young people who turned 18 just after the general election.

In the end, as usual, turnout tomorrow will be decisive. Both parties know that and are working frantically to turn out their respective bases. (V)

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