Record number of Cobb voters, but turnout rate drops

People wait in line for early voting on Friday, October 30, 2020, at the Cobb County Tax Commissioner Office on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta, Georgia. The estimated wait time was over 90 minutes at around 9:20 a.m. at the polling location. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
People wait in line for early voting on Friday, October 30, 2020, at the Cobb County Tax Commissioner Office on Whitlock Avenue in Marietta, Georgia. The estimated wait time was over 90 minutes at around 9:20 a.m. at the polling location. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

A record number of Cobb voters cast ballots in the 2020 November General Election, helping put President-elect Joe Biden ahead in the county and statewide.

But the turnout rate by percentage of registered voters dropped compared to four years ago.

In 2020, more than 393,000 people voted in the presidential contest, or 74 percent of registered voters. In 2016, about 326,000 people voted--79 percent.

Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, said that automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles greatly expanded the pool of registered voters, but many of those people likely never cast ballots. That program began about five years ago.

“One of the challenges is to get new voters to actually go to the polls,” said Bullock. “Yeah, you’re on the registration list, but you didn’t really care.”

Bullock said this block of apathetic voters is unlikely to be the primary target of get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of Georgia’s two runoff Senate races.

“The primary target in a runoff is to get people to come back,” said Bullock, noting that most runoffs see a significant drop in voter participation from the general election. “First effort: Get back the same voters you had. Second effort: Try and find some new voters.”

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said everyone who wanted to had ample opportunity to vote in 2020.

“I expected more, but that’s the way it goes,” she wrote in an email.

In Other News