Early voting for Georgia's 2024 presidential primary has begun. Here's what you need to know

The Neighborhood Church in Candler Park was one of the many polling places open in Atlanta for a runoff election on Tuesday, December 5, 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

The moment that Georgia’s political enthusiasts have long awaited is now upon us. Monday marks the beginning of the Peach State’s early voting period for the 2024 presidential primaries.

The voting period, which appropriately enough begins on President’s Day, lasts for three weeks, ending on March 8. After which, Georgia voters will have the opportunity on March 12 to cast their vote to determine the Democratic and Republican nominees.

“Early voting is underway in all 159 counties,” said Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer in the office of the Georgia secretary of state, in a post on X on Monday morning. “Also, the counties have mailed 20,421 absentee ballots to voters that have requested them.”

Georgia is an open primary state, meaning that regardless of political affiliation, all voters are eligible to request a ballot for either party. However, they can only choose one to cast.

Early voting locations operate on weekdays typically from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on the second and third Saturday before Election Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But times may vary by location. Voters can check Georgia’s My Voter Page to verify their registration information and designated polling places and view a sample ballot.

Various counties throughout the Metro Atlanta area list current voting wait times on their official websites, including Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Fayette, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Henry.

Voters looking to cast an absentee ballot have until March 1 to submit a request. To be eligible for counting, absentee ballots must be received by mail or drop box by the time the polls close on Election Day.

The Democratic Party of Georgia and the Georgia Republican Party urged their supporters on social media Monday to take advantage of early voting.

Meet the candidates

Outside of former President Donald Trump, 10 other candidates will appear on the Republican ballot in Georgia, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. However, despite their appearances on the ballot, all have dropped out of the race except for Haley and Trump.

On the Democratic Party ballot, outside of President Joe Biden, only two other candidates are listed: U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and self-help author Marianne Williamson. But Williamson dropped out earlier this month.

Trump and Biden are heavily favored to win their respective primaries in Georgia. Some 59 delegates on the Republican side and 124 delegates on the Democratic side are up for grabs in a winner-take-all format. It all leads to the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer.

This primary only includes candidates for president. Georgia voters will return to the polls in May for primary elections for the state legislature, U.S. House and other statewide and local races.

New season, new rules

With a new presidential election comes several changes to Georgia’s voting system and laws.

Since Senate Bill 129 became law in 2023, Georgia employees are now allowed up to two hours of paid leave to go vote.

This is also the first presidential election in Georgia since the passage of the controversial S.B. 202, which mandates a second Saturday of early voting in counties that didn’t already offer it to voters, as well as a ban on passing out food and water to those waiting in line to cast their ballot. The law, which also allows voters to place unlimited challenges on the eligibility of other voters, has been criticized by Democratic leaders such as Stacey Abrams and Bee Nyguen for disenfranchising many Georgians, particularly people of color.

While available during the 2020 election, no-excuse absentee voting and ballot drop boxes now see more restrictions, with the latter only found now in indoor areas and permitted for access during early voting hours.