76K new Georgia voters registered before US Senate runoffs

Nearly 76,000 new voters registered in Georgia since before the presidential election, enough to make a difference in the U.S. Senate runoffs if they turn out.

The number of new voters was revealed in an updated voter registration list purchased from the secretary of state’s office by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. These voters signed up before the state’s Dec. 7 voter registration deadline and are eligible to participate in the Jan. 5 runoffs that will decide control of the Senate.

They’re overwhelmingly young, with 56% of them under 35 years old. Some are new Georgia residents; others just turned 18. None has a voting record in the state.

In all, there are a record 7.7 million registered voters in Georgia. The 76,000 new voters signed up between Oct. 5, the deadline to register to vote in the November general election, and Dec. 7, the deadline for the runoffs.

Just 2,670 of the new voters have cast ballots in the runoffs through Tuesday, most of them during in-person early voting this week, according to state election data. The rest of them, 434 voters, had returned absentee ballots.

The first-time Georgia voters can have an impact in a close election. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won by nearly 55,000 votes in 2018.

“Georgians learned on Nov. 3 that if they register and vote, that their vote has power,” said Seth Bringman, a spokesman for Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams. “If Georgians used their collective power, we could create change in our state.”

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has warned out-of-state voters from relocating to Georgia for the runoffs unless they plan to stay here. It’s illegal to vote in Georgia without establishing legal residency, or to move here with the intention of voting and then quickly leaving.

“Our office is dedicated to making sure Georgians and only Georgians vote in Georgia’s elections,” said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs.

The rate of voters who registered during the last two months is roughly consistent with the rapid growth of the state’s voter rolls over the last two years. The number of voters in the state increased by about 34,000 per month since October 2018, according to state election data.

Most voters are automatically registered to vote in Georgia when they obtain their driver’s licenses.

Less than half of the new voters, 46%, identified themselves as white when they registered. Overall, 53% of Georgia voters are white.

More Hispanic and Asian voters registered than their overall share of the electorate. About 28% of new voters are Black, lower than their 30% portion of the state’s voters.

So far, over 914,000 people have cast ballots for the runoffs through Wednesday, with heavy early voting turnout. At the same point in the general election, 916,000 people had voted.

By the numbers

7.7 million: Registered voters in Georgia

75,858: New voters since the Oct. 5 voter registration deadline for the general election

5 million: Turnout in the general election

914,000: Turnout through the first three days of early voting in the runoff election

Source: Analysis of election data from the secretary of state’s office