Strong early voting turnout in Georgia offers outcome insights

With early, in-person voting continuing through Friday, early voting in Georgia continues to be on pace to exceed the previous Midterm General Election as voters decide on two competitive statewide, nationally watched races at the top of the ticket.

As of Monday morning, voter turnout had reached 1.66 million ballots cast, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. That accounts for about 23% turnout. As of Tuesday, voter turnout had reached 25%, according to L2 voter data.

By comparison, turnout in the 2018 Midterm General Election was 61.44%. Of the 3.6 million voters who cast ballots, nearly 1.9 million voted early, according to L2. That accounts for nearly 53% of all ballots cast.

That means about 200,000 ballots are needed during early voting to match 2018 turnout, with two full days and half of Wednesday ahead for early voting this year. That does not fully account for mail ballots, which may be received through Election Day.

Of those who have voted so far this election, nearly 47% of ballots returned have come from Democrats, 45% from Republicans and just over 7% from non-partisan voters.

Early voting so far is also favoring women, with more than 55% of ballots cast so far compared to just shy of 45% from men. Black voters are also turning out early, with nearly 33% of all ballots cast so far, according to the L2 data. That’s compared to nearly 56% of ballots returned from White voters.

There are some takeaways in this data. First, it shows an early glimmer of hope for Democrats. Not only have more Democratic voters already cast a ballot this election, women and African American voters are also showing strong turnout, both demographics that tend to favor Democrats. Women are an especially crucial voting bloc this election as liberal candidates campaign on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade that removed federal protections for abortion access. 

But, the trends also align with expectations that Democrats would be more likely to cast an early ballot than Republicans as fears among conservatives continue as it relates to unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. That means voter turnout on Election Day could favor Republican voters, which could negate gains made during early voting. 

The data also does not illustrate cross-party trends, as some voters may not cast a ballot that aligns with their political affiliation, whether a Democrat voting with their wallet as economic campaigning points favor Republicans, or Republicans who buck their party over fears related to maintaining democracy, as Democrats have largely campaigned on. 

It also does not fully capture the effect non-partisan voters will have on the election. Of the total ballots cast to date, only about 7% have come from unaffiliated voters. In 2018, voter turnout among non-partisan voters overall reached just over 10%, according to the L2 data, signaling a potential higher turnout among those voters this year. 

Still, the numbers point to strong enthusiasm in this Midterm Election.

Georgia is hosting one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races this cycle, with incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock facing Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a race that has consistently grabbed salacious headlines related to abortion and domestic violence.

Walker has been accused, with evidence, of paying for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, despite being a vocal opponent of abortion access, even in cases of rape or incest. A second accuser has also come forward saying he also paid for her abortion. 

And both candidates have faced allegations of domestic abuse, with Walker accused of pointing a gun at his ex-wife’s head and Warnock of running over his ex-wife’s foot with his car during an altercation, though charges were never filed on Warnock and medical professionals evaluating his ex-wife found no evidence to support her claim.

Warnock had been polling slightly ahead of, though closely to Walker. In recent days, polling trends have shifted more toward Walker’s advantage, despite mounting allegations related to the abortions. Analysts continue to put the race in the toss-up category. 

The outcome of Georgia’s Senate race is largely expected to play an out-sized roll in which party controls the Senate in the next Congress.

Georgia voters also face a competitive race for Governor, with incumbent Republican Brian Kemp facing Democrat Stacey Abrams, though polling in that race has shown a much wider advantage for Kemp.

Voter participation may also be a referendum on President Joe Biden, whose approval ratings in Georgia and elsewhere are underwater. That is a common Midterm theme that favors the party out of power in Washington, which this year is the GOP. 

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