Politics

Mail In Ballots Contribute To Higher Georgia Democratic Party Voter Turnout, Primary Data Shows

A person stretches as they wait in a line to vote in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.
A person stretches as they wait in a line to vote in the Georgia's primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.
Credit Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

Voting totals from Georgia’s June 9 presidential and state primary elections show Democrats making gains, especially in the suburbs.

“This was a big, big turnout and one thing that is really striking here is Democratic turnout, exceeded the Republican turnout,” Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz said.

The primary set a record in Georgia with more than 2.1 million votes cast, and Democrats exceeded Republicans by more than 182,000 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Democrats were particularly active in Georgia’s sixth and seventh congressional districts north of Atlanta, where Republicans are not as strong as they used to be, Abramowitz said.

“I think they [Republicans] have to really worry about these suburban Atlanta districts,” he said.

In the sixth congressional district, where Georgia Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath ran unopposed, there were still 24,421 more votes for her than for all the five Republicans combined.

In the seventh congressional district, which is an open seat this year, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 20,695 votes.

The high turnout this year is partly due to COVID-19 because it triggered a record number of absentee ballots encouraged by mass absentee ballot mailings from Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

“The decision by the Secretary of State to mail every registered voter in the state an application for an absentee ballot was crucial,” Abramowitz said.

But that won’t happen in November. Raffensperger has already said he will not repeat such a mailing.

Long Lines Not A Deterrent

And while absentee voting hit a record, people also exceeded expectations, in terms of turnout, at the polls while enduring long lines due to a lack of poll workers, malfunctioning new voting machines and polling place consolidation, especially in minority neighborhoods in Metro Atlanta.

At a press conference, those voters received recognition from longtime civil rights activist Helen Butler with the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a group founded by the late Rev. Joseph Lowery.

“I want to say thank you [to] all the voters who showed up, who stood in line who had the commitment and tenacity to endure unthinkable barriers on election day.”

Down Ballot Races Could Feel Effects

This Democratic enthusiasm could spill into November, said Abramowitz, and whatever happens in the presidential elections, could trickle down-ballot to State House races.

“Let’s say Biden wins Georgia, which would be close, and Democrats do well in the House and Senate elections, I think you’re going see that carry over into state legislative races,” Abramowitz said.

In fact, 14 State House seats could be vulnerable, according to an analysis by University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

He compared turnout in State House districts currently held by Republicans. He found these districts in Georgia’s suburbs attracted more Democrats than Republicans for the primary.

“You can’t look at these differences in turnout rates and say, ‘Well, this means that these 14 districts are all going to flip over to the Democrats.’ Indeed, it’d be amazing if they did, but at a minimum, it should send shivers down the spine of the Republicans in those districts.”

That’s because those Republicans, Bullock said, will need to campaign a lot harder to try to keep their seats.

One of those suburban State House districts is currently held by Jan Jones, who is the Speaker Pro Temp and one of the most powerful Republican women in the state. Her Democratic opponent Anthia Owens Carter had 54 more votes in the Democratic primary.

For Georgia Democrats to take control of the State House in Georgia, they’d need to flip at least 16 seats in November, but Republican House Speaker David Ralston said his party is in good shape for November.

“I’m excited about running on the record that we have. What my message will be is we have a record to growing us out of the recession, criminal justice reform, funding transportation. ”

With two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs, a presidential election, congressional, elections, and State House and Senate contests, Georgia voters could set another record in turnout this November.

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