Voters were met with long lines and long wait times on Friday as the early voting period ended in the Senate runoff election in Georgia between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
As of midnight Saturday, more than 1.8 million total ballots had been cast, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. More than 1.7 million of those ballots were cast in person at early voting locations around the state.
Voting officially closed at 7 p.m. ET Friday evening, but several voting locations in metro Atlanta counties remained open to allow voters who were already in line to cast their ballots.
Election officials touted the record-breaking numbers heading into Election Day on Tuesday. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia secretary of state’s chief operating officer, tweeted Friday that “the Georgia Voters just blew away the early vote single day record today.”
More than 350,000 Georgians participated in early voting Friday, according to data from the secretary of state.
Despite several days this week with historically high early voting numbers, overall, the state will have far fewer pre-election voters than in the 2021 runoff, when more than 3.1 million Georgians voted by mail or in person before Election Day.
This year’s runoff period is half as long as it was when voters elected Warnock for the first time in a January 2021 special election runoff. Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 — commonly known as SB202 — significantly shortened the overall length of runoff campaigns and the early voting period for runoffs.
The new law sets the runoff Election Day four weeks after the general election, down from the previous nine weeks. It also eliminated two of the three weeks of early voting that was previously required. Counties only had to make early in-person voting available Monday through Friday of this week, though they could opt to add a few extra days.
The pool of new voters eligible to vote in the runoff is also smaller this year. The abbreviated four-week runoff period meant the deadline to register was much earlier too — the day before the Nov. 8 election. Voters who were not registered by Nov. 7 — before the need for a runoff was even known — are ineligible to vote in this runoff.
When SB202 was signed into law, Republican lawmakers argued the shortened schedule would benefit county election administrators. Voting rights advocates argued the law was suppressive and would most affect marginalized communities.
About 140,000 Georgians have voted by mail so far. Mail ballots must be received by the close of polls on Tuesday.
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