The number of MARTA referendum votes cast since seven satellite locations opened in Gwinnett County has already far surpassed that of the first week’s early vote totals, according to county numbers.
Between Feb. 25 and March 3, the Gwinnett County elections office saw 4,682 votes cast. After satellite voting locations opened in cities across Gwinnett on March 4, the total number of early votes cast in person was 19,118 as of Sunday evening, according to the county.
Gwinnett’s unprecedented three-week early voting period — including keeping polling places open 12 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays — continues through Friday, March 15, and Election Day is March 19. In addition to the county elections office in Lawrenceville, voters can cast early ballots at county parks in Buford, Suwanee, Duluth, Norcross, Stone Mountain, Snellville and Dacula. They must go to their assigned polling place to vote on March 19.
Proponents of the referendum have said a strong turnout is the key for success. Pro-transit groups including the Sierra Club, Go Gwinnett and the state and county arms of the Democratic Party are coordinating on get-out-the-vote efforts and warning that low turnout could lead to a failure of the referendum.
“The reality is that special elections, standalone issue elections, like this one in the middle of March, have historically had tremendously low turnout,” said state Rep. Brenda Lopez, D-Norcross, at a recent town hall meeting. “If the referendum were not to pass, I would attribute it solely to that reason.”
In the December runoff election for secretary of state and public service commissioner, 103,639, or 19.7 percent, came out to vote. For the current referendum, turnout by the end of Election Day is not expected to exceed 100,000, said Ryan Anderson, the data analyst who runs GeorgiaVotes.com. Gwinnett County currently has about 544,000 registered voters.
“It definitely looks like we’re going to comfortably surpass the runoff early voting totals at this point,” Anderson said. “But the other important point is that over 80 percent of voting in Gwinnett came from day-of voters in the December runoff, versus under 50 percent in the November general.”
It is difficult to directly compare turnout in this race to other recent elections because the referendum is a county-level special election and not being held on the same day as any state-level races.