Dec 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Georgia's early voting starts with heavy turnout

Voters wait in a long line to vote at the Buckhead library in Atlanta on the first day of In-person early voting for the Georgia Senate runoff election on Monday, Dec. 14.

Voters wait in line to vote at the Buckhead Library in Atlanta on the first day of in-person early voting for the Georgia Senate runoff election. Photo: Jason Armond/Getty Images

Georgia's on an early path to a huge turnout in the two runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State's Office crunched by Axios.

By the numbers: Voters cast 482,000 ballots in roughly the first day and a half of early voting this week. That’s equivalent to one-third of the total in the last statewide general election runoff, held in 2018, and about one-fourth of the total ballots in the last Senate runoff, held in 2008.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden visited the state today to try to boost turnout for Democrats before the Christmas holiday. The election is Jan. 5. Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are squaring off against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and the opening turnout highlighted voter interest in the races.

  • Not only are Biden and Vice President-elect Harris visiting the state this week, but President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Georgia earlier this month.
  • If Democrats pick up both seats, they gain a 50-50 Senate — with Harris casting tie-breaking votes. If Republicans win just one race, Mitch McConnell remains majority leader and sets the chamber's agenda.

What to watch: You can't read too much into early ballot numbers just yet. Georgia does not register voters by party, so it's even less clear who might be benefiting from early voting so far. That said, the first-day tally points to unusually high turnout, aided by expanded voting by mail, which tends to favor Democrats and helped Biden beat Trump in Georgia — the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

  • 65% of ballots cast so far in the Georgia runoffs were sent by mail.
  • There are still more than 900,000 mail ballots that have been requested but not yet returned.

Be smart: Not only is there extra hype around the Senate runoffs that could drive more voters to the polls, but Georgia's population has been growing rapidly — including a million new voters in four years.

  • The big early number could be just a reflection of the sheer increase in the voting population.

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