(The Center Square) — Georgians head to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the state’s prolonged primary election. However, a record number of voters have already voted.
More than 857,000 Georgians cast ballots in person or returned an absentee ballot. This year’s numbers were a 168% increase over 2018, the state’s last gubernatorial primary, and a 212% increase over 2020, a presidential primary.
“The record early voting turnout is a testament to the security of the voting system and the hard work of our county election officials,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement.
The centerpiece of this year’s primary is a Republican challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp. A slate of candidates, including former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, hope to unseat Kemp.
A recent Fox News poll found that 60% of Republican voters prefer Kemp, who has used his bully pulpit recently to announce economic development and legislative wins. Less than one in three (28%) favor Perdue.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Perdue, while former Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Kemp. A candidate needs a majority of votes to avoid a runoff; the winner faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker Kemp defeated four years ago.
“I am tired of hearing about how we’re the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live,” the Gwinnett Daily Post quoted Abrams as saying on Saturday during the Gwinnett Democrats’ Bluetopia Gala in Norcross. “Let me contextualize. When you’re No. 48 for mental health, when we’re No. 1 for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that is on the rise and wages are on the decline, then you are not the No. 1 place to live.”
Meanwhile, Herschel Walker, a former University of Georgia football star, leads a crowded Republican field for the U.S. Senate. According to Fox News, 66% said they support Walker, followed by former state agriculture commissioner Gary Black (8%), Latham Saddler (5%), Kelvin King (3%) and Josh Clark (2%).
The winner will likely face U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, in November. Warnock faces a primary challenge from Tamara Johnson-Shealey.
Meanwhile, Raffensperger faces a primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, Torri M. Hudson and former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle. The primary has focused on the outcome of the 2020 election, and Trump has jumped in to endorse Hice.
Meanwhile, the Democracy Initiative Education Fund ranked the Peach State No. 43 out of 51 voting jurisdictions nationwide. The group said it ranked jurisdictions using a set of indices assessing the voting experience, including election administration, registration and early voting.
“It’s unprecedented and alarming that 20 state-level candidates now running for secretary of state — including Rep. Jody Hice in Georgia — have platforms that question the legitimacy of the 2020 election,” Charly Carter, DIEF executive director and the co-author of the group’s report, titled “Storming State Capitols.”
“Voters should have confidence that those who administer their elections are professional, impartial and make consistent decisions based on documented facts.”