Volunteer Alfred Leblanc (center) directs early voters at the Gwinnett County Voter Registrations and Elections Office in Lawrenceville on Thursday, October 18, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Early voting triples in first week for Georgia midterm

Throngs of Georgia voters rushed to cast their ballots during the first week of in-person early voting, with nearly three times as many people voting so far compared with the last midterm election.

Despite three-hour lines in some areas, the number of Georgians who voted early steadily increased throughout the week, according to state data.

Already, 482,435 people have voted in advance, including nearly 92,000 on Friday alone. The number of early votes so far represents 19 percent of all votes cast in the 2014 midterms.

The high early turnout indicates that Georgia voters are enthusiastic about being counted in this year’s race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp — and that they want to lock in their votes now rather than wait until Election Day on Nov. 6.

It’s impossible to tell which candidate is leading in the race because no votes will be counted until Election Day.

poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this month showed a tight race for governor, with Kemp leading Abrams 47.7 percent to 46.3 percent, a statistically insignificant difference within the poll’s 2.8 percentage point margin of error.

Voters had strong opinions about the candidates as they showed up to vote early.

Debra King, an early voter in Gwinnett County, said she was excited to vote for Kemp because he’s a “staunch conservative.”

“He’s trying to save our country,” King said. “I hope he’ll get rid of the crime, get rid of the gangs, make it safe to walk around in your own neighborhood again.”

After voting early in DeKalb County, Linda Jones said she supported Abrams because “our future is in jeopardy.”

“I like the change she’s trying to bring about,” said Jones, particularly in her desire to expand Medicaid and her platform on education.

In-person early voting in Georgia lasts for three weeks until Nov. 2, including at least one Saturday on Oct. 27. Early voting is available in all of the state’s 159 counties.

About 61 percent of early voters so far are white and 29 percent are black, according to statistics compiled by the website Georgia Votes. Almost 30 percent of early voters didn’t cast a ballot in 2014.

Voting early has become increasingly popular over the last few years in Georgia. About 58 percent of all voters cast their ballots in advance of Election Day in 2016, and 37 percent voted early in 2014.

In all, there are more than 6.9 million registered voters in Georgia, which is a record high for the state.

— Staff writers Amanda C. Coyne, Janel Davis and Raisa Habersham contributed to this article.

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