ATLANTA (AP) — Tuesday’s election in Georgia marks the biggest test yet of new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans in one of the nation’s most important battleground states as voters decide the Hotly contested primary races for Governor and U.S. Senate.
Election officials, poll workers and voters were navigating new rules put in place by the GOP-controlled legislature and the Republican governor after the 2020 presidential election as part of a concerted effort by former President Donald Trump to cast doubt on his loss with unsubstantiated fraud allegations.
They added restrictions on mail-in voting, limited drop boxes and changed rules that could make it harder for voters who run into trouble on Election Day to have their ballots counted. This is despite no evidence of widespread fraud that would have changed the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, a state Joe Biden won by an estimated 11,800 votes.
Voting groups watched for long lines, voter confusion, problems with voting equipment, or any other issues that might prevent voters from casting their ballots.
Tuesday’s vote capped a record early voting period in Georgia. Nearly 860,000 ballots have been cast through Friday, the majority of which were cast in person rather than by mail. State election officials said early turnout marked a 168% increase from the 2018 primary and a 212% increase from 2020.
Republicans touted the early vote numbers as evidence that Georgia’s law, known as Senate Bill 202, did not harm voters.
“Once again, the facts disprove the left’s rhetoric of ‘voter suppression,'” said Jason Snead, executive director of Honest Elections Project Action, a conservative group that supports tougher election laws.
Georgia was among three states, along with Alabama and Arkansas, holding regular primaries on Tuesday. Texas has runoff elections for the GOP primary for attorney general and for a Democratic congressional seat, while Minnesota is holding a special primary for the seat of former Republican U.S. Representative Jim Hagedorn, who died in February.
Georgia — along with other states that have held early primaries — has seen a dramatic decline in the use of mail-in ballots since the record numbers reported in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when voters were looking for alternatives to crowded polling stations. .
Voting advocates said Georgia’s new election law has made it harder to apply for an absentee ballot by shortening the period in which voters can apply for one and adding new identification requirements to applications and the ballot itself. Trump’s unsubstantiated attacks on mail-in ballots have also hurt voter confidence.
As of Sunday, around 64,600 mail-in ballots had been returned out of nearly 97,000 requested by Georgia voters. About 1,300 applications were rejected for missing the earlier new deadline, or 1.4% of all applications submitted. Those voters, if they can, can still vote in person on Tuesday.
Texas primary voters in March were surprised by new ID requirements, leading to an unusually high rate of mail-in ballot rejections. Lawmakers in Alabama and Arkansas also shortened the deadline for those requesting mail-in ballots.