ATLANTA (AP) — In the first statewide test of new voting restrictions, Georgia’s high-stakes primary election appeared to be running smoothly Tuesday with no reports of major problems in one of the nation’s most important battleground states.
A record number of ballots cast during the early voting period in the three weeks before Election Day helped ease the strain at polling places. There were no reports of long lines or widespread equipment problems by Tuesday afternoon despite hotly contested GOP primary races for governor and U.S. Senate.
“It’s all quiet, and quiet is good,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who also was facing a GOP primary challenger in his re-election bid.
He said overall turnout was on track to set a record for a midterm election in the state.
Tuesday’s primary was the first major election since the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican governor adopted tighter rules following the 2020 presidential election and amid a concerted effort by former President Donald Trump to cast doubt on his loss with unsubstantiated claims of fraud.
Lawmakers added restrictions to mail voting, limited drop boxes and changed rules that could make it harder for voters who run into problems on Election Day to have their ballots counted. That’s despite no evidence of widespread fraud that would have changed the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, a state that Democrat Joe Biden won by about 11,800 votes.
Election Day capped a record-setting early voting period in Georgia. Nearly 860,000 ballots had been cast through Friday, the majority were done in-person as opposed to mail. State election officials said the early turnout marked a 168% increase from the 2018 primary and a 212% increase from 2020.
Republicans have touted the early voting numbers as evidence that the Georgia elections law, known as Senate Bill 202, has not harmed voters.
“Now we are seeing the hard evidence that as we all knew, the hysteria was never based on fact to begin with,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Shame, shame on the Democrats who pushed the big lie that a grand scheme was afoot to prevent millions of Americans from voting. It was never true.”
Georgia’s primary also was expected to draw a far higher turnout among Republicans because of the closely contested GOP races for governor, U.S. Senate and secretary of state. The two leading Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate were facing little to no opposition.
“That voters have been able to overcome these restrictions does not change the fact that SB202 places cumbersome, confusing and — in some cases — inhumane barriers to the ballot box,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Nothing I have seen so far has changed the fact that Georgia could have celebrated the historic turnout we saw in 2020 and made voting more accessible.”
Georgia was among three states, along with Alabama and Arkansas, holding regular primaries Tuesday. Texas had runoff elections for the GOP primary for attorney general and for a Democratic congressional seat, while Minnesota was holding a special primary for the seat of former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February.