Ken Hammond votes and the long line wraps around the gym behind him on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

Early voting by mail surges ahead of Georgia 2018 election

Georgia voters are rushing to get their votes in, more than a month before Election Day.

Almost twice as many absentee ballots have been mailed to Georgia election officials so far compared to the same point before midterm elections in 2014.

Election officials received 17,436 absentee ballots through Tuesday, according to numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Four years ago, 8,819 ballots had been recorded at this point in the election cycle.

By voting early, Georgians are already starting to decide the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, along with many other contests. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Voting by mail allows voters to use paper ballots instead of relying on Georgia’s electronic voting machines, which election integrity advocates say are vulnerable to hacking.

Absentee voting also allows Georgians to ensure their votes are counted without having to drive to precincts or wait in lines.

With so much time left before Election Day, it’s unclear whether the sharp increase in early voting will continue. In the 2014 election, a total of 954,010 people voted early, either by mail or in-person. Early voting accounted for 37 percent of turnout four years ago.

Georgia allows anyone to vote by mail on absentee ballots. Voters can request an absentee ballot online through the state’s My Voter Page

In-person early voting begins across the state on Oct. 15. The deadline to register to vote for this year’s election is Oct. 9.

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