As early voting has begun in the state of Georgia, the state has already seen a new record number of voters casting their ballots early, despite critics who claimed that the state’s new voting law would reduce the total number of votes cast.
According to Reason magazine, over 100,000 Georgians voted early on Monday, a new state record for the first day of an early voting period. Previously, the number of Georgians who cast a vote in the state’s May primary was already more than twice as many as the number of voters in the 2018 primaries.
Last year, the state legislature passed S.B. 202, formally known as the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” to significantly curb controversial voting practices that have been known to be vulnerable to fraud. Signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp (R-Ga.), the law mostly reverses pandemic-era changes to election procedure, as well as reducing centralization of the state’s election process.
The law significantly reduces the number of ballot drop-boxes in the state, including in the four large counties that make up the area of Atlanta; the state’s biggest city saw its number of drop-boxes plunge from 94 to just 23. The law also implements new restrictions on the absentee ballot system, reducing the total number of people who are able to request such a ballot, and also stripped the Secretary of State of many election-related powers, including the office’s place as chairman and a voting member of the State Election Board.
The new law also gives the State Election Board greater authority to “suspend” election officials at the state and county levels if they are suspected of corruption or political bias, and replace them with “temporary” appointments.
Following the bill’s passage, Democrats launched a coordinated attack on the law, falsely claiming that it suppressed the voting rights of black Georgians. Joe Biden, among other Democrats, compared the law to Jim Crow-era segregation laws. But the record high number of early votes cast seems to debunk those claims, proving that voters are still allowed access to ballots, albeit not through remote methods that are more susceptible to fraud.
Governor Kemp is running for re-election this year in a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams, the nominee he narrowly defeated in 2018. Polls have Kemp widely favored to win yet again by an even larger margin. In the race for the U.S. Senate, former football star Herschel Walker is challenging incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, whose election in the special election that stretched from 2020 into 2021 was widely attributed to fraudulent practices. That race is considered significantly tighter, with Warnock holding a narrow polling lead but with Walker on the rise.