The historic turnout of early voters ahead of Tuesday’s runoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District has turned a number of assumptions on their head. Now, looking at new data, we also know who these more than 140,300 voters are — and how they differ from those who voted early in the original April 18 special election that set up this contest between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Political party affiliation
Then: The split between those pulling GOP ballots in last year’s presidential primary and those pulling Democratic ballots was a tie until the second decimal: 33.89 percent requested a Republican ballot and 33.81 percent requested a Democratic one. Ossoff won more of the early vote — and finished first overall with 48 percent of the vote — but Handel is seen as having won more of her votes on Election Day, as Republican voters likely held back in trying to parse among 11 GOP candidates in the original 18-candidate race.
Now: More early voters voted a Republican ballot in last year’s presidential primary. Data show 37 percent of early voters this round had voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, versus 22 percent for the Democratic presidential primary.
What does it mean: While GOP efforts to get more voters out early has resonated, so-called “neither” voters are a tossup likely to swing the runoff. It’s also worth noting that these none of these voters are neophytes — 94 percent of all early voters this month also voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Effect of late voter registration
A federal judge in early May extended voter registration in the district through May 21, part of an ongoing lawsuit over how Georgia handles voter registration ahead of federal runoff elections. The district’s original registration deadline had been March 20. As a result, about 8,000 voters registered, bringing total registration to about 526,000 voters.
Most of them haven’t voted yet: Of all early-vote ballots cast ahead of the runoff, only about 1.2 percent — or 1,638 voters — were from those who registered in May.
Then: Nearly three out of every four early voters was white, outpacing the district as a whole (66 percent of the district’s registered voters overall identify as white).
Now: Same, although percentage of white early voters has dropped a point to 73 percent.
Then: Millennials were only 11.5 percent of early voters, despite accounting for one-quarter of the district’s electorate. Voters we call baby boomers plus, those age 52 and older, cast nearly 67 percent of early ballots — despite making up only about 42 percent of the district’s registered voters.
Now: Early voters were younger, although older voters still voted in higher numbers. Millennials = about 14 percent of early ballots. Baby boomers plus = about 60 percent.
27 percent — Early-vote turnout alone in the runoff. For perspective, turnout in April (including early vote and Election Day) was 37 percent.