Early voting turnout falls after runoffs shortened by Georgia law

People walk up the ramp at the DeKalb County elections office during the first day of early voting for runoff elections on Monday, June 13, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

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People walk up the ramp at the DeKalb County elections office during the first day of early voting for runoff elections on Monday, June 13, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Voting law reduced time available for early voting

Georgia’s shortened early voting period before Tuesday’s runoffs drew 138,000 voters, a steep decline from the record 795,000 people who cast ballots in advance of last month’s primary, according to state election data.

While turnout is almost always lower in runoffs, there were also fewer days of early voting this year because of the Georgia voting law passed in 2021. The law called for runoffs to take place four weeks after the primary, leaving less time for early voting.

Early voting ended Friday after one week in most counties. In previous runoffs, three weeks of early voting were often available.

On election day Tuesday, the runoffs will finalize each party’s slate of candidates for the November election. Democratic Party voters will decide races for statewide offices including lieutenant governor and secretary of state, while Republican Party voters will settle four runoffs for Congress.

ExploreUnder Georgia voting law, absentees decline but turnout resilient

Many Republican voters don’t have any runoffs in their congressional districts, contributing to lower turnout than the primary.

More voters have cast Democratic ballots so far than Republican ballots. With runoffs in several statewide races, Democratic voters accounted for 61% of early turnout in the runoffs after Republican voters dominated the primary last month.

Georgia’s voting law, Senate Bill 202, required one week of early voting and allowed counties to begin early voting as soon as possible after the initial election. Eight of Georgia’s 159 counties offered more than one week of early voting: Clarke, Cobb, Echols, Fulton, Glynn, Gwinnett, Lowndes and Rockdale.

The Republican-majority General Assembly tightened the runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks following victories by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in runoffs for U.S. Senate in January 2021.

The abbreviated runoff period also limited the amount of time for voters to request and return absentee ballots. About 24,500 absentee ballots had been returned through Friday.

During the initial primary last month, total turnout reached nearly 2 million, an all-time high for a midterm primary in Georgia. The state’s voting law requires at least 17 days of early voting before primaries and general elections but five days of early voting before runoffs.

Neighborhood polling places will be open Tuesday across Georgia from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters who participated in the primary must vote in the same party’s races during the runoff. Registered voters who skipped the primary can vote in either party’s runoff.

Voters can find their polling places, sample ballots and registration information through the state’s My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov.


Georgia 2022 primary runoff elections

Democratic

Lieutenant governor: Charlie Bailey vs. Kwanza Hall

Secretary of state: Dee Dawkins-Haigler vs. Bee Nguyen

Insurance commissioner: Raphael Baker vs. Janice Laws Robinson

Labor commissioner: William Boddie vs. Nicole Horn

U.S. House District 1: Joyce Marie Griggs vs. Wade Herring

U.S. House District 10: Jessica Allison Fore vs. Tabitha Johnson-Green

Republican

U.S. House District 2: Jeremy Hunt vs. Chris West

U.S. House District 6: Jake Evans vs. Rich McCormick

U.S. House District 7: Michael Corbin vs. Mark Gonsalves

U.S. House District 10: Mike Collins vs. Vernon Jones