Georgia voters said they were motivated and excited to cast their ballots Monday on the first day of early voting, lining up as polling places opened for the midterm elections.
Election officials saw steady turnout at the start of in-person early voting, which lasts at least 17 days across Georgia leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8.
In most early voting locations, voters could walk in without a wait, but several polling places reported high turnout that created delays of an hour or more.
Voting temporarily stalled Monday morning because of an eight-minute outage of the state’s voter registration system. The secretary of state’s office said problems were quickly resolved.
The state’s laggy eNet system also caused long lines at the start of early voting in 2020. A replacement registration system announced in January wasn’t fully installed in time for this year’s election.
Voters from across the political spectrum said they were driven to the polls by inflation and a desire to elect candidates who reflect their views.
“There’s a lot at stake,” said Latonya Williamson after voting at Berean Christian Church in south DeKalb County. “It’s important to get someone in there who can control the issues of inflation, high cost of living and crime.”
At the North Fulton Government Center in Sandy Springs, Kathie Scully said she has high confidence in the security of her vote and Georgia’s elections process.
“I think we have the safest elections in the country,” Scully said. “I don’t know who hypes that up.”
Several voters said they’re concerned about Georgia’s voting law passed last year, which limited absentee ballot drop boxes, required additional ID for absentee voting, and restricted food and water for voters waiting in line.
“Nothing should be implemented to make it hard to vote,” said Robin Selvey of Decatur after voting at the main DeKalb County elections office. “Things are calculated for things to go a certain way, and we need to prevent that with our votes.”
Richard Funderburke, who was at the front of the line at the DeKalb elections office, said he didn’t experience any issues when casting his ballot for the first time on Georgia’s voting system, which uses touchscreens to print paper ballots. In the presidential election two years ago, he voted absentee during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know there’s been a lot of changes with voting laws, but they don’t affect me personally. Some of them seem silly, like not allowing food and water,” said Funderburke, who lives in the Decatur area.
At the East Cobb Government Center, Camille Werts had trouble casting her ballot because of an ID mix-up with her twin sister, even though they showed their different driver’s license numbers at the polling place. Werts had the option of submitting a provisional ballot or voting later, said Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler.
“Luckily, there is three weeks of early voting so things like that can be resolved,” Eveler said.
Erica Werts, the twins’ mother, said she is prioritizing the integrity of candidates when making her choices.
“If you can’t trust them and they are not honest about what they’re saying, then I don’t necessarily want them to represent me,” she said. “When they get into office, there are all these other competing groups, and you have to have your compass.”
Jaime Bennett of Stone Mountain said voters will turn out against politicians’ efforts to ignore the will of the people they’re supposed to represent.
“When you see people take steps to get in the way of your vote, it lets you know how important it is,” Bennett said after voting at Berean Christian Church. “I set my alarm and got up early to vote today.”
Early voting locations in Georgia are required to be open on every weekday and two Saturdays until ending on Nov. 4. Some counties are also offering early voting opportunities on Sundays.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he expects turnout to exceed the nearly 4 million voters who cast ballots in the last midterm election four years ago. In the presidential election, 5 million people participated.
Each county’s early voting locations are open to all county residents. On Election Day, voters must report to their neighborhood precincts.
Early voting in Georgia
Voters can find their early voting locations, Election Day precincts and sample ballots through Georgia’s My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov.
Early voting locations will be open every weekday and two Saturdays in every county from Oct. 17 to Nov. 4. Some counties are offering early voting on Sundays.
Voters can also apply for absentee ballots until Oct. 28. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com