ATLANTA — New numbers from Georgia election officials show more than 300,000 Georgians cast their votes Monday in the runoff election for U.S. Senate. That was exceedingly beyond the previous one-day record of around 233,000 votes. Cobb County had the highest, raw vote turnout Monday per Gabriel Sterling with the Secretary of State's Office.
Along with robust weekend turnout, the large volume of early voters can take a toll on election workers. Long lines can be seen all over metro Atlanta polling locations. Monday marked the first state-required day counties could offer early in-person voting. Voting rights advocates made the push in recent weeks to expand the number of early voting days.
With the shortened period between the midterm and election and the runoff, poll workers have less time to turn around and organize the next election. Cobb County elections director Janine Eveler said there's a drop-off in staff for the runoff due to travel and other scheduling conflicts.
“I think it’s the compressed timeframe," Eveler said. "We want to get and voters want to try and get their voting done during a one-week timeframe when they normally would have gotten three weeks to do it. We just have a lot of voters. Things like parking and line management, we’ve had to remember those things for where the line goes when we have a line. In November, we didn’t really see many lines at all, so now we’re having to remember how we manage our lines.”
Gwinnett County elections supervisor Zach Manifold said his office had to process 8,000 additional voter registrations between October and November and manually input 15,000 absentee ballot requests, keeping election workers busy.
"Since Nov. 8, we’ve been going nonstop, probably 12 to 16-hour days every day for the staff here," Manifold said. "We got Thanksgiving Day off, and that’s been about it. It had been something like 56 straight days or something most of the staff had worked without a day off.”
Republican strategist Brian Robinson said Democrats likely built a big lead over Republicans during the early in-person voting period for the runoff. Counties that offered earlier access to voters, such as Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett, leaned heavily Democratic in metro Atlanta.
"The longer lines certainly indicate there is some level of enthusiasm, some level of engagement from voters," Robinson said. "There's always a concern in a runoff that the enthusiasm and engagement will fall off a cliff. That hasn't happened here."
Xakota Espinoza with Fair Fight blamed extraordinarily long voting lines on Georgia's new election law, which overhauled the entire system and changed the way elections are run in the state. She also placed blame on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
"We saw hundreds of thousands of Georgians seizing the opportunity to vote as soon as their counties allowed, despite multiple failed attempts by Brad Raffensperger and Georgia Republicans to block Saturday voting statewide and make an already shortened voting period even less accessible," Espinoza said. "Organizers had to work overtime educating voters about changes, polling locations, hours. The shortened runoff period presents a particular burden for working voters, students and voters who are traveling or temporarily living outside the state.”
"Wait times have been short statewide, but some metro area Early Voting locations will have longer lines on higher turnout days such as the first day of Early Voting and the last few days of Early Voting," a statement from the Secretary of State's Office read. "Most metro counties offer more than one early voting location and wait times are often shorter at other locations in the county. Some counties are reporting their wait times in real-time so that voters can choose the location with the shortest wait."
Election officials suggest to avoid the long lines, go first thing in the morning or closer to when polls close is key. They expect a strong turnout come election day Dec. 6.