ATLANTA (AP) — Tuesday’s election in Georgia marks the most important test yet of recent voting restrictions enacted by Republicans in certainly one of the nation’s most vital battleground states as voters resolve hotly contested primary races for governor and the U.S. Senate.
Election officials, poll employees and voters were navigating latest rules put in place by the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican governor after the 2020 presidential election amid a concerted effort by former President Donald Trump to forged doubt on his loss with unsubstantiated claims of fraud.
They added restrictions to mail voting, limited drop boxes and altered rules that would 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 might have modified the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, a state Joe Biden won by about 11,800 votes.
Voting groups were waiting for long lines, voter confusion, problems with voting equipment or some other hitch that would hinder voters from casting their ballots.
Tuesday’s voting capped a record-setting early voting period in Georgia. Nearly 860,000 ballots had been forged through Friday, the vast majority of which were done in-person versus 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 law, often known as Senate Bill 202, has not harmed voters.
“Once more, facts are disproving the left’s ‘voter suppression’ narrative,” said Jason Snead, executive director of Honest Elections Project Motion, a conservative group that supports tighter voting laws.
Georgia was amongst three states, together with Alabama and Arkansas, holding regular primaries 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. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February.
Georgia —- together with other states which have held early primaries — has seen a dramatic decline in using mailed ballots because the record numbers reported in 2020 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when voters were looking for alternatives to crowded polling places.
Voting advocates said the brand new Georgia elections law has made it harder to request a mail ballot by shortening the period voters can apply for one and by adding latest ID requirements to the applications and the ballot itself. Trump’s unsubstantiated attacks on mailed ballots even have taken a toll on voter confidence.
As of Sunday, about 64,600 mail ballots had been returned out of nearly 97,000 requested by Georgia voters. About 1,300 applications have been rejected for arriving past the brand new, earlier deadline, or 1.4% of all applications submitted. Those voters, if able, can still vote in person on Tuesday.
Texas primary voters in March were tripped up by latest identification requirements, leading to an abnormally high rate of mail ballot rejections. Lawmakers in Alabama and Arkansas also shortened the period for those requesting absentee ballots.