Black voters led the record surge of people in Georgia flocking to polling places to cast their ballots in advance of the 2022 midterm Election Day next month.
Early voting began this week in the Peach State and the numbers suggest an outsized amount of interest in this particular election as candidates duel for key positions and questions up and down the ballot. That was true despite a new law that critics say was enacted to make it harder for Black people, in particular, to vote.
On Monday, nearly 123,000 people voted in person to have their voices heard in races that include but are not limited to the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that many people casting ballots on the first day of early voting nearly doubles the number of voters during the same day four years ago. Black voters accounted for 39% of everybody who cast ballots on Monday.
Back in 2018, a mere 71,000 people voted on the first day of early voting in those midterm elections. It was not immediately clear how many of those folks back then were Black, but it’s important to note that was the same year then-Secretary of State and now-Brian Kemp allegedly orchestrated a massive voter suppression effort that focused on polling places where Black people vote in order to secure his own victory over Stacey Abrams.
Black voters in Georgia were ready, just like last time
The fact that the two are facing each other again this year for the same seat and their first debate also took place on Monday may have helped raise awareness of early voting and prompted Black voters to get to the polls soon amid lingering memories of the alleged voter suppression that caught many people off guard on Election Day.
The report may also dispel the notion that Abrams has been facing setbacks galvanizing Black voters around her campaign in particular. It was only last week when the Washington Post asked in a headline whether “Black voter turnout” is one of Abrams’ “challenges.”
To be sure, back in 2018, a whopping 94% of Black voters supported Abrams’ candidacy. According to the Post, that number dropped to 83% as of last week. Much of that type of criticism has come in Abrams’ own backyard as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has repeatedly broached the topic in its campaign coverage. Just last month, one article focused on Abrams’ “surprising problem with Black voters.” Another from July reported that Abrams was “underperforming with Black voters.”
New restrictive election law in effect
Monday also marked the first time Georgia’s controversial new election law is being used that critics say makes it harder to vote, particularly for Black and brown people.
Among some of the new elections law’s provisions: it limits participation by requiring those voting by absentee ballot to submit a copy of their ID; reduces the locations and use of secure drop boxes; prohibits the use of mobile voting to ease long lines and allows for state takeover of local boards of election; allows unlimited voter challenges; shortens the time for a runoff election from nine weeks to four; and prohibits the practice of line-warming, where volunteers often provide comfort to voters waiting in line.
The DOJ sued Georgia last year over the law, which has been largely described as racist.
It was in that context that Black voters still showed up in force on Monday.
Who is on the ballot in Georgia?
Aside from an interest in Abrams’ candidacy, other Georgia races that are capturing attention around the U.S. include former football star-turned-Republican candidate Herschel Walker vying for Sen. Raphael Warnock’s seat in the U.S. Senate and Democrat Marcus Flowers taking on far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green for her seat in U.S. Congress.
Click here to find a full slate of names and questions on Georgia’s ballot.
Early voting lasts until Nov. 4.