Georgia’s first day of early voting on Monday was marked by reports of record turnout and hours-long waits in line, as voters cast ballots for two U.S. Senate races and a tight presidential contest in a once reliably conservative state that has turned competitive.
Georgia election officials say the state is experiencing record turnout for early voting, which kicked off on Monday and runs until the Friday before Election Day.
County officials said the wait times were due to exceptionally high voter turnout, as well as social distancing rules that limited polling places’ occupancy and scattered technical glitches in a few Atlanta precincts.
Over 7.5 million Georgians registered to vote this year, a record-breaking figure and a more than 8% increase from 2018, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Both of Georgia’s Republican-held U.S. Senate seats could change hands this year, with David Perdue facing a tight reelection contest and a special election that includes incumbent Kelly Loeffler, whom Governor Brian Kemp appointed last year to serve until an election could be held for the remainder of the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired at the end of 2019.
“Georgia is seeing record turnout for early voting because of excitement and enthusiasm of the upcoming election,” Walter Jones, spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, wrote in a statement to Forbes. “Long lines are to be expected.”
A Democratic presidential candidate has not won Georgia since 1992, and their last U.S. Senate victory in the state was in 2000. Still, Democrats have grown increasingly optimistic about their chances in the state, especially after the party won a greater share of suburban voters in 2016 and came close to winning the gubernatorial race in 2018. Biden’s campaign has invested in ads in the state in recent weeks, and both incumbent Republican Senators are preparing for tight races that could result in runoffs. The state’s Democratic voters are concentrated in the city of Atlanta and suburban areas like Cobb County, both of which reportedly saw strong turnout for early voting Monday.
Some observers warned long wait times during Georgia’s early voting period could ultimately suppress voter turnout. The state also struggled with long lines and inefficiencies during its delay-plagued June primary this year.
9.75 million. That’s the estimated number of Americans who have already cast their ballots for next month’s election, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Many states extended their early voting windows or opened up new vote-by-mail options this year.