Georgians Shatter Early Voting Numbers Despite Major Storm In Final Week

A line on the last day of early voting at Smyrna Recreation Center in Cobb County.

Christopher Alston / WABE

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Voters in Georgia continued to turn out to the polls in record numbers during the final week of early voting, even though several polling locations had to remain closed for part or all of the day Thursday.

Tropical Storm Zeta caused voting locations in more than 15 counties to close or delay opening because they were without power on the penultimate day of early in-person voting.

More than 150,000 Georgians voted early on Thursday despite the storm, but this was less than the consecutive record-breaking days prior. Georgia reached a single day high of 216,000 on the final day of early voting.

Ginger Shutt said she waited about two hours to vote at the Smyrna Recreation Center in Cobb County on Friday. She said the line actually went faster than she expected.

“There’s a lot of kind people offering water and snacks and all that, so it’s really not been bad at all,” said Shutt.

The line had decreased a little by the time she finished around noon. Shutt had originally planned to vote Thursday, but found out from her husband the location was closed due to the storm.

Chase Johnson was also waiting in line at the rec center. He said he wanted to cast his ballot in person because of concern with the mail-in voting process.

“Either side, I have no clue what’s going on with those so I figured I’d do it in person,” said Johnson.

Several voters waiting in line said they decided to come out for the last day of early voting because they expected even longer lines Tuesday, on Election Day.

Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, says that for people who made a plan to vote Thursday, perhaps took time off work, it may be difficult to vote on another day.

“The secretary of state, to his credit, did encourage counties to extend hours, so that was an important step. A strong recommendation would have been preferable,” said Young. “In all fairness, the counties have had to respond to a tremendous upsurge in people wanting to vote.”

Georgia has seen record voter turnout this election. More than 3.9 million people have cast a ballot already, a 63% increase over this same point in the 2016 presidential election.

Richard Barron, election director for Fulton County, said there are multiple precincts where more than a thousand people have already voted ahead of Election Day. Barron said that enough people voted early in the process that the final day of early voting was less busy than usual.

“We’re way above what we did in 2016,” said Barron, “We’ve already exceeded the entire vote count for 2016, and we haven’t even got to Election Day.”

Election officials have repeatedly said that it has passed the date when absentee ballots should be sent through the postal system. Those who have not returned their absentee ballot can deliver them to their county’s election office or one of the ballot drop boxes in their county.

Barron said Fulton has already received more 132,000 absentee votes as of Saturday, and more than 315,000 people have voted early. He said he expects this will allow the county to finish counting votes by 11 p.m. Tuesday, depending on how long people are still in line after polls close.