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Georgia early voting numbers up as election day arrives

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: More Georgians cast early ballots in this midterm primary than in the last one

Despite having four fewer weeks in which to cast ballots, more Georgia voters availed themselves of the opportunity to vote early this year in the party primaries than did four years ago, which the last mid-term election was conducted.

According to numbers released Monday by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, early voting was up about 12.6 percent though the state has compressed the voting period to three weeks from the seven weeks that were available to voters in the 2010 midterm primaries.

The number also may go up further as more mail-in ballots are likely to be received.

“The numbers make it clear that Georgia voters are increasingly taking advantage of early voting opportunities,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said. “The counties have done a wonderful job of fine-tuning the early voting process.”

Kemp’s office reported Monday that 239,281 early ballots had been cast as of Friday, with 214,975 of those voted in person. That in-person number this year already exceeds the combined total of 212,487 in 2010 for in-person (162,065) and mail-in (50,422) early ballots cast in July 2010. As of Friday, 24,306 mail-in ballots had been received, but there are still 14,385 mail-in ballots that have been sent out to voters but not returned. In all likelihood, some of those will be returned in time to be counted, which will further pad the increase in early voting participation.

In Dougherty County, this year’s numbers are nearly flat with 2010, though they could exceed 2010 by a small amount. In 2010, the county had 1,504 in-person absentee votes and 293 mail-ins for a total of 1,797. So far this year, officials have 1,792 early votes, with a breakdown of in-person and mail-in ballots not available Monday afternoon.

Statewide, some may be surprised by who is voting early. About three out of every five early votes cast this year have been by voters who selected a Republican Party primary ballot. Of the 239,281 ballots already received, 147,995 were Republican (61.86 percent), 88,316 were Democratic (36.9 percent) and the remaining 2,970 (1.24 percent) were non-partisan.

That the numbers are up with four fewer weeks of early balloting may seem counter-intuitive, but that is the case. It may be that voters simply aren’t in tune with elections and don’t know enough about the candidates nearly two months before the actual election day, particularly during a mid-term election that usually has a smaller turnout than the ones in which a decision is to be made on who will occupy the White House for the next four years.

Plus, voters may be reluctant to make such early calls on candidates because these days unflattering revelations about candidates often pop up in the latter days of campaigns. You just never know when a candidate will talk himself or herself out of contention, resulting in a wasted ballot.

While there doesn’t appear to be a race today’s ballots that has “caught fire” with the public, we can hope that the overall upward trend in early voting will carry over to Georgia polls today. Voting precincts will be open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. There’s no better way for an individual in America to make a statement than with his or her vote. If you haven’t voted early, don’t miss the opportunity to cast yours.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board