May 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Republicans parade Georgia's record early turnout

Illustration of several versions of the elephant from the Republican Party logo stampeding and kicking up dust.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Emboldened Republicans plan to double down on a nationwide "election integrity" push after Georgia saw record early voting in today's primary.

Why it matters: President Biden and other Democrats had attacked the state's new ballot restrictions as "Jim Crow 2.0." But early voting came in at nearly triple Georgia's 2018 level.

What's happening: Republicans argue the results refute Democrats' claims that the 2021 election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) amounted to voter suppression.

  • Democrats contend the high early turnout is the result of energized efforts to educate voters and say the biggest changes from the law were related to absentee ballot access and rules — not early voting.
  • About 4,000 votes were attributable to the additional day of early voting that Republicans have touted under the new law, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution's Mark Niesse.

Reality check: Rejection rates for provisional ballots won't be available until after the election, so the complete picture won't be clear for weeks.

Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state, told reporters that the 2021 municipal elections saw increased rates of absentee ballot rejections under the new law.

  • "The question here is: After this election cycle for the primary, how many voters were disenfranchised by the cutting down of absentee ballot voting?" she said. "And how many voters had to change the mechanism in which they were choosing to vote?"

What to watch: A Republican familiar with the party's plans told Axios the GOP will "continue to tout election integrity efforts through November" on top of the millions already spent — casting Georgia as a "victory."

  • Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the Senate GOP's campaign arm, said companies like Delta look "foolish" for having criticized the Georgia law, telling Axios' Alayna Treene they "'ought to apologize."

Zoom out: Republicans are expected to launch the second wave of election reform bills in state legislatures — with GOP-led states, including Georgia and Arizona, taking "another pass" at additional changes, Heritage Action executive director Jessica Anderson told Axios.

  • Anderson signaled another push to overhaul election laws is also likely in states — including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — where Democratic governors have vetoed GOP voting bills.

What they're saying: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell co-opted the term "big lie" — used to describe former President Trump's false claims about the 2020 election — twice on Tuesday to attack Democrats' "fake hysteria" about voter suppression.

  • "It was a big lie, and the big lie is in the process of being disproven," McConnell claimed on the Senate floor, later using similar language at a leadership press conference.

Stacey Abrams, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, countered that the Republican claims of vindication amount to "correlation without causation."

  • "We know that across the state, voters are still facing difficulties," she told reporters. "And this is just the primary. Primary voters tend to be more active and engaged voters."
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