News

Georgia sees record early voter turnout despite Dems’ carping over new election law

​Early voting in Georgia’s primary races has surged ​to record numbers despite dire warnings from Democrats that a new election law would suppress turnout — with President Biden likening it last year to “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”

In the three weeks of early voting, more than 850,000 ballots were cast in person or returned via absentee ballot, representing a 212% jump over the 2020 presidential primary race and a 168% increase over the 2018 gubernatorial primary contest, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement released last Friday.

“The incredible turnout we have seen demonstrates once and for all that Georgia’s Election Integrity Act struck a good balance between the guardrails of access and security,” Raffensperger said in the statement. ​

When Gov. Brian Kemp signed the voting reforms in March 2021 imposing new rules on absentee voting that included requiring a photo ID and shortening the voting window, critics howled in outrage.

Biden, who defeated former President Donald Trump in Georgia​ in 2020 to become the first Democrat to win the state since 1992, was among those predicting the law would put a damper on voting, especially among minority groups, and called it “un-American.”

Stacey Abrams speaks to the news media outside a voting precinct on Tuesday.
EPA

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end,” he said.

Calls to boycott Georgia’s government and businesses began almost immediately. 

Major League Baseball pulled the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta, and critics lashed out at Delta Air Lines after the Atlanta-based carrier put out a statement that praised parts of the law. ​

A voter checks his printed ballot at the Park Tavern polling location on Tuesday.
Getty Images
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gave an update on the primary election on Tuesday.
REUTERS

Amid criticism, Delta CEO Ed Bastian did an about-face and called the law “unacceptable.”​

The top executive at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, James Quincey, also came out in opposition to the measure.​

But more than a year removed from the initial hubbub over the law, ​857,401 people cast early ballots — including 795,567 in person and 61,744 by absentee as of May 20, Raffensperger said.​

Trump-backed David Perdue is facing off against Gov. Brian Kemp, who won the endorsement of Mike Pence.
REUTERS

The heightened turnout was powered by Republicans, who cast 483,149 votes compared to the 368,949 cast by Democrats and the 5,303 nonpartisan votes. ​​

GOP participation in Tuesday’s primaries reflects the nationwide coverage of a number of key races in the state, including the Republican gubernatorial contest between incumbent Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue. 

The race has generated headlines due to the split between Trump, who is backing Perdue, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who has endorsed Kemp. ​​

In the three weeks of early voting, more than 850,000 ballots were cast in person or returned via absentee ballot.
Getty Images

Along with the marquee matchup between Kemp and Perdue, NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker is seeking the Republican nomination for a US Senate seat, and far-right lightning rod Marjorie Taylor Greene is seeking a second House term. 

Georgia Republicans are still smarting from the loss of two GOP-held Senate seats to Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff that swung control of the chamber in 2021. 

That and the Biden administration’s failure to respond to inflation and the immigration crisis has Republicans fired up. 

Roughly 57% of voters have cast Republican ballots, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday. ​

Voters cast their ballots at the Chastain Park gymnasium.
REUTERS

“We’re voting for whoever would do the best job. Just because a candidate is a Trump person doesn’t mean they’ll do the best job,” Kenneth Kelley​ told the newspaper after voting in Cherokee County. “We’ve got options in our party.”

O​thers told the publication that they’re backing a variety of Republican candidates, without regard to whether Trump has endorsed them.

​“It’s a mixed bag. I don’t care what Trump thinks. I want to hear from the candidates,” said Mickey Morrison, ​an early voter in Forsyth County​.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (second from right) leaves the Georgia Capitol after he signed into law a sweeping overhaul of state elections in March 2021.
AP

R​ep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), the chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, said she’s not surprised that Republicans are turning out in high numbers because of the high-profile races, and she expects a similar response from her party this November — when there’s expected to be a rematch between Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams after he defeated her in 2018. 

Abrams is running in the Democratic primary unopposed. 

“That’s what happens when you have a contested primary. We’ll let them figure out their plans on their side while we’re continuing to do the work and talk to voters,” Williams ​told the newspaper. “Stacey is ready for whoever comes out of their primary.”