Multiple high-stakes races on the ballot in Georgia have drawn record levels of early-voter turnout, according to state officials.
Through the first days of early voting, a record 1.017 million people cast ballots in the state, according to a press release from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
This preliminary news of high turnout follows a controversial revision to state-level election administration procedures authorized by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in 2021.
“We had a lot of problems with the 2020 election,” said Christian Zimm, a Republican running to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. “We codified a lot of those issues into law with SB 202,” he told CNBC.
“[Senate Bill 202] means we don’t have any more 24-hour drop boxes here in the state,” said Bernard Fraga, a political science professor at Emory University. “Counties like Fulton County and DeKalb County that had dozens of ballot drop boxes [are] now reduced to less than half, in some cases, less than a third of the number of drop boxes they had in November 2020.”
Yet there are some ways that SB202 is making casting a ballot simpler for some voters. “You can vote in the state of Georgia anywhere in your county during early voting. … This is very beneficial for people who work. This is beneficial for people who are parents,” Tammy Greer, assistant of political science professor at Atlanta Clark University, told CNBC.
The votes coming in from the sprawling Atlanta metro region will reverberate throughout the U.S. this midterm election cycle. These voters will help determine crucial races in the U.S. Senate and House, as well as those for governor and state secretary of state.
If Republicans are able to flip national seats in key parts of Georgia, splitting Congress, experts say the pace of U.S. policymaking could slow.
“This is a unique moment in terms of the hyper-polarization where Congress can’t even pass legislation in a lot of instances because there’s just no give whatsoever,” said Adrienne Jones, an assistant professor at Morehouse College.
Polling data suggests that economic issues remain the top issues for voters in the final weeks before Election Day, but the record voting results suggests that a wide range of issues including crime, civil rights and abortion are motivating voters to head to the polls in droves.
Watch the video above to see what’s driving Atlanta’s record early-voter turnout.