Voters swamped early voting locations across Georgia this year, locking in almost 2.1 million votes ahead of Tuesday’s election and showing their strong desire to be counted in the tight race for governor.
Early voting ended with a final surge Friday, when nearly 250,000 people got their votes in before Election Day, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.
So many people showed up during Georgia’s three-week early voting period that the state approached its overall turnout — including Election Day — of the last midterms four years ago, when 2.6 million people cast ballots.
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The heated race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams, Republican Brian Kemp and Libertarian Ted Metz motivated voters to be sure they don't miss this year's election.
A poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News this past week showed the race is a statistical tie between the leading candidates, within the poll's margin of error.
The number of early voters is a new high for a midterm election in Georgia. Early turnout more than doubled from the last midterm election in 2014, when about 954,000 people cast advance ballots.
This kind of early turnout was previously unheard of outside a presidential election year.
Before the 2016 election, more than 2.4 million people voted early in Georgia, helping Republican Donald Trump win Georgia with 51 percent of the state’s total votes against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
There’s no way of knowing which candidates are ahead going into Election Day because votes won’t be counted until then.
Women outnumbered men during early voting, casting 55 percent of ballots so far, according to election statistics compiled by the independent vote-tracking website Georgia Votes.
About 57 percent of early voters were white, exceeding their 54 percent share of the state's total number of registered voters. Black voters made up 30 percent of early voters, which matches their percentage of the state's registered voters.
A record number of Georgians, 6.9 million, are registered to vote this year.
More people may have already voted early than will show up at their neighborhood precincts on Election Day.
Each general election, more Georgians vote early to take advantage of the convenience of choosing what day of the week to cast their ballots. But early voting turnout was so high at many early voting locations across the state that people had to wait in long lines, sometimes for as long as three hours.
About 58 percent of all voters cast their ballots in advance of Election Day in 2016, and 37 percent voted early in 2014.
If voters cast ballots at the same rate on Election Day as they did two years ago, total turnout for this year’s election will exceed 3.5 million. That would amount to 900,000 more voters than in 2014 but short of the 4.2 million in the 2016 presidential election.
This article was written by Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.