Georgians Head to Early Voting Sites in Droves, With Some Getting a Lift

Karli Swift voted at the Coan Park Recreation Center in DeKalb County last week ahead of the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoff.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

For Karli Swift of Atlanta, easy access to voting isn’t just about location, it’s about fitting it into a busy schedule.

“It’s hard trying to find the time to go, so when you can just call and have scheduled your ride to the polls, it makes sure that you actually get it done,” said Swift.

A van from the New Georgia Project’s Ride to the Polls program scooped up Swift at her home last week and drove her to an early voting site in DeKalb County.

In this election, Georgians are playing a critical role in determining control of the U.S. Senate.

“There’s a lot of people outside of Georgia that are focused on this race,” said Swift. “But I think in Georgia, we all feel this sense of ‘wow, we can really do this. We can really change the U.S.; we can really impact people’s lives’.”

The state offers three weeks of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, but some voters don’t always have reliable transportation to the polls. The driver who took Swift to the polls estimates he’s been taking between 20-25 voters to a polling site per day.

The New Georgia Project’s leader, Nse Ufot, says Ride to the Polls shuttles are operating in seven cities across the state. She says it’s especially important in Georgia cities without robust public transit.

“We work to figure out ways to make it easy for people to vote; to remove excuses and to improve the experience,” said Ufot.

Ufot says the program has already taken hundreds of Georgia voters to the polls or to an absentee ballot drop box ahead of the Jan. 5th election.

In total, as of Sunday, more than 1.3 million Georgians had voted in-person ahead of the runoff elections and 735,000 absentee ballots had been returned to counties. Early voting continues through the end of this week and absentee ballots must arrive to counties by 7 p.m. on Jan. 5.

“I think it’s resolve,” Ufot said of the early turnout.  “We see folks showing up and participating in crazy numbers, I think people are clear about what’s at stake.”