A record number of Georgia residents have cast ballots during early voting, in the wake of last year’s adoption of election integrity measures that critics derided as “voter suppression” and President Joe Biden called a “blatant attack” on the Constitution and compared the law to a Jim Crow-era relic.
More than 710,000 people had voted early in Georgia’s primary election as of May 19, according to the secretary of state’s office, which is 149 percent higher than at the same point in 2020, when elections officials encouraged vote-by-mail and early voting to reduce crowding at polling stations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early voting for the May 24 primary elections ended on May 20.
“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.
“As Secretary of State, I promised to strike a strong balance between access and security in our elections, and these numbers demonstrate that I kept that promise and that voters have confidence in Georgia’s elections.”
Allegations of voter fraud and other irregularities in the 2020 election prompted Republicans in a number of states to advance measures they argued were meant to shore up election integrity and public confidence in the electoral system.
Among these was Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 (pdf), or SB 202. The reforms ushered in by the legislation include requiring photo or state-approved identification to vote absentee by mail. They also mandate that secure drop boxes be placed inside early voting locations, with constant surveillance, while expanding early voting across the state.
When it was signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, SB 202 drew praise from backers of elections security initiatives and criticism from those who claimed the bill amounted to voter suppression.
Biden criticized SB 202 as “a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.”
By Tom Ozimek