For James Newton, an African American voter in Atlanta, early voting is a tough sell.
“I always vote on Election Day. I like the excitement of it,” Newton told The Daily Signal after voting at a church on Election Day in November. “For me, it’s like showing up to a ballgame. You want all the final, last portions of the game, like overtime, so to speak.”
However, as of Thursday morning, 1.05 million early in-person voters had shown up at the polls for Georgia’s Senate runoff. The pace “far exceeds the number of voters who cast ballots in the runoffs of 2018 and 2016,” according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
That’s despite dire warnings from President Joe Biden and other Democrats who predicted “voter suppression” and “election subversion” in the Peach State as a result of its 2021 election reform law.
Neither Sen. Raphael Warnock, the incumbent Democrat, nor Herschel Walker, his Republican challenger, won 50% of the vote Election Day, so state law required them to face each other again in a Dec. 6 runoff.
The Daily Signal interviewed voters on Election Day across three Georgia counties, and generally they said they neither experienced voter suppression or were directly aware of anyone who had during the state’s first general election since passage of SB 202 extended voter ID requirements to absentee ballots, expanded early voting on weekends, and codified rules governing ballot drop boxes.
Corrine Stroud, a resident of Marietta in Cobb County, said she didn’t vote early because she enjoys the feeling of voting on Election Day.
“Voting was very easy. There wasn’t a line and it was in and out pretty much,” she told The Daily Signal after voting Nov. 8. “A long time ago, black people couldn’t vote, so I think it is important for me to do that for my family.”
Biden and other prominent Democrats labeled Georgia’s new election reforms as “Jim Crow 2.0,” asserting that the law would make it more difficult to vote.
But Stroud said she doubts the new law affected anything and said she didn’t personally experience voter suppression.
“I haven’t experienced it. I haven’t seen it,” Stroud said. “I’m pretty sure it is out there, but I haven’t been through any of that.”
The Biden administration’s Justice Department sued to overturn the Georgia law. Biden visited Atlanta in January, where he attacked election reform laws in Georgia and 18 other states.
“Here in Georgia, for years, you’ve done the hard work of democracy: registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls,” Biden said in Atlanta.
The president added: “What’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia? Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way. To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem. So they’re putting up obstacles.”
Two-time Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams denigrated Georgia’s election reforms when they were enacted in March 2021, tweeting that the legislation was a “voter suppression bill.” Abrams also called it “nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0” in a public statement.
To the extent that voter suppression exists, Gwinnett County voter Tia Severino said, corporate media is to blame for undermining confidence in elections.
“The mainstream media is causing voter suppression by creating a sense of doubt in people and uncertainty, and by lying to them about what is going on and covering up what’s going [on], telling people things are happening that aren’t happening, telling people things are not happening when they are happening, and lying,” Severino told The Daily Signal after voting Nov. 8.
“It’s really upsetting,” she said, adding of voter suppression: “It’s not happening here at the polls. It’s happening with the people who are telling you what to think on your television sets.”
The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office reported that after early in-person voting surpassed 300,000 Monday and Tuesday, it dipped below 300,000 Wednesday.
“Georgia’s voting system is working well,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a public statement. “While some counties are seeing more voter turnout than they anticipated, most have found a way to manage voter wait times, and I appreciate the election officials and workers across Georgia who are doing their level best to accommodate our record turnout.”
Although The Daily Signal didn’t observe Election Day lines Nov. 8, Raffensperger’s office reported long lines for early-voting locations for the runoff in the metropolitan areas of Clayton, Forsyth, Richmond, Gwinnett, Fulton, Dekalb, and Cobb.
Mimi Obong, a Norcross resident, noted Nov. 8 that she has had friends dissuaded from voting because of long lines. She told The Daily Signal that she had little trouble voting in Gwinnett County, but thought suppression could be a problem elsewhere.
“If some folks have problems getting their IDs, I can see that being an issue, people not updating their addresses. A lot of different factors come into voter suppression,” Obong said.
Jeff Sizemore, of Sandy Springs, said voting was very simple as he exited a public school building Nov. 8 in Fulton County.
“It was simple. I just came in, there was no wait. I was in and out in two minutes,” Sizemore told The Daily Signal.
“I don’t see how you don’t have to provide some ID proof that you are voting,” he said. “It seems very logical to me.”
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