Early voting begins in Atlanta mayor’s race as debates, attack ads intensify

Kenneth French leaves the Buckhead Library after voting early on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)



Kenneth French leaves the Buckhead Library after voting early on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Atlanta’s most eager voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast the first ballots in the race to decide the city’s 61st mayor, as the first week of early voting kicked off for the municipal elections.

Early voting runs for the next three weeks ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2. In addition to the high-profile mayor’s race, Atlanta residents will vote for City Council and Board of Education seats.

A line stretched outside the front of the C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center in southwest Atlanta just after the polls opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Waiting in line to cast his ballot was councilman and mayoral candidate Andre Dickens, who gathered with supporters in the parking lot of the rec center to celebrate the beginning of early voting.

“We’re already seeing good traffic here,” Dickens said. “This is important. People are excited to vote and so am I.”

As Nelly Rowe left the precinct, she said voted for former Mayor Kasim Reed, who is running for a third term in office.

“I think he did good when he was mayor. I trust him,” said Rowe, 76. “He got a lot of stuff done.”

The next few weeks will be crucial for candidates like Dickens who are looking to raise their name recognition and win over undecided voters to secure a spot in a likely Nov. 30 runoff. Recent polls show former Mayor Kasim Reed and City Council President Felicia Moore in the top two spots with Dickens, Councilman Antonio Brown and attorney Sharon Gay trailing behind. A large percentage of voters still have to make up their minds.

Kimberly Underwood (left) and sister Mary Wallace Underwood leave the Buckhead Library on the first day of early voting. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)


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There are a number of televised debates planned for this week that will give the campaigns a chance to directly address voters, including an Atlanta Press Club debate on Tuesday and an 11Alive debate Wednesday. Voters can expect advertising — especially attack ads aimed at specific candidates — to increase, too.

The Joan P. Garner Library at Ponce De Leon also saw a steady trickle of voters Tuesday morning.

Mallory Gray, 34, said she voted for Moore, though her choice was also an anti-Reed decision.

“I just feel like I can trust her. She feels like a much more viable candidate, and the top candidate compared to Reed,” Gray said.

Many are also still watching to see if Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will put her support behind a mayoral candidate before Nov. 2. Asked Tuesday morning at an event for the Beltline if she planned to endorse anyone in the race, she said: “We’ll see.”

In addition to the start of in-person early voting, absentee ballots are also being mailed to voters this week. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is 11 days before election day, on Oct. 22, and completed ballots must be received at local election offices before polls close.

Voters can cast their ballot at any early voting location in their county, but must go to their assigned precinct on Election Day.