(The Center Square) — A record number of Georgians cast early in-person votes on the first day of early voting in this year’s primary election.
Overall, 27,298 Georgians cast early ballots in person on Monday. That is three times the number that turned out on the first day of the 2018 primary and nearly twice as many as the first day of the June 2020 primary.
An additional 2,719 absentee ballots have been returned statewide.
“Record turnout on the first day of early voting is a testament to an elections system that ensures top-level security and ease of access,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in an announcement. “Georgia voters statewide experienced short or nonexistent lines, and a smooth voting process.”
During the June 2020 primary election, 14,950 individuals cast early ballots in-person on the first day of early voting. Two years earlier, during the 2018 primary, 9,266 Georgians cast ballots on the first day of early, in-person voting.
This year’s primary features several high-profile races, including a heated Republican gubernatorial primary.
Four candidates, including former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, are challenging incumbent Brian Kemp. The winner of the Republican primary faces Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker who lost to Kemp four years ago in the governor’s race.
In another high-profile race, six Republicans, including University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker, are vying for the chance to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia.
Raffensperger said it “remains easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia,” saying the Election Integrity Act of 2021 is working as anticipated. The measure expanded the number of early voting days to 17, including two mandatory Saturdays of voting; it also codified an optional Sunday voting day.
However, critics say some of its provisions are onerous, including a mandate that voters show photo ID for absentee ballots. They also say it reduced the number of absentee ballot drop boxes.
The New Georgia Project, a left-leaning voting-focused organization Abrams once headed, disputed Raffensperger’s rosy recap of the first day of early voting, saying the state’s new districts and changes to voter precincts led to widespread confusion.
“Day 1 of early voting and the SOS is failing Georgia voters once again,” the organization said in a tweet. “Counties STILL don’t have updated precinct cards or the correct sample ballots. That means that voters across several counties may not know where to vote or the races they are eligible to vote in.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor