Oconee County voters cast 11,773 votes in-person in the five allowed days of early voting leading up to the Tuesday runoff between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker for the U.S. Senate.
That is 3,094 fewer votes than the 14,867 votes that were cast in the 17 days of early voting leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
As of the end of early voting on Friday, 833 Oconee County voters had returned an absentee ballot.
That is 256 fewer than the 1,089 absentee ballots that had been received by the end of early voting on Nov. 4.
Voting begins at 7 a.m. on Tuesday at the county’s eight polling locations, and another 9,919 votes would have be counted by 7 p.m. on that day to match the 22,525 votes cast in the Nov. 8 election.
Only 399 issued absentee ballots remain unreturned.
And election day voting in November produced only 6,417 votes.
Single Day Records Set
The 2,300 votes cast on Monday, the first day of early voting, was a record, according to Jennifer Stone, Assistant Director of Elections and Registration for Oconee County.
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That record was broken the next day when 2,416 votes were cast at the Civic Center.
It was broken again on Friday, when 2,695 votes were cast in-person.
The number of absentee ballots received and tallied on Monday also was high, at 329.
Much media coverage around the state has focused on these numbers, but they provide limited information.
The Republican controlled Georgia General Assembly shortened the period between the November election and the required runoff, reducing the number of days for advance voting as well as for requesting and returning absentee ballots.
Consequently, there was no way meaningfully to compare the turnout with earlier elections until early voting ended on Friday.
The official returns for the November election show an overall turnout rate of 74.7 percent.
That results from the total of 22,525 votes from the 30,164 registered voters.
In the end, 66.0 percent of the voters cast a ballot through advanced voting, 28.5 percent cast a ballot in person on election day, and 5.5 percent cast an absentee by mail ballot.
Put another way, 49.3 percent of the registered voters (rather than voters in the election) in November voted in advance.
That percent for the runoff will be 39.0 percent, or more than 10 points lower.
And 4.1 percent of the registered voters in November used an absentee ballot.
That figure now stands are 2.8 percent, but valid absentee ballots received by the end of the day on Tuesday still will be counted. If all of them were received–an unlikely event–that percentage would be 4.1 percent.
It is impossible to know if the restricted time for advance and absentee balloting will force more people to vote on election day.
The numbers would have to be large, and it is more likely that turnout is going to be much lower for the runoff than for the November election, as is usually the case.
Voting Mode Comparisons
It is only a guess as to what that dropoff in turnout will mean for the outcome.
In November, Walker received 65.9 percent of the vote in Oconee County, compared with Warnock’s 31.4 percent. The remaining 2.8 percent of the vote went to Libertarian Chase Oliver.
Walker did best in election-day balloting, getting 68.8 percent of the vote.
Walker received 66.7 percent of the vote in advanced in-person voting.
He received only 41.5 percent of the vote cast absentee.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp received 73.6 percent of the vote in Oconee County, or 7.7 percent more than Walker.
The gap between Kemp and Walker was 9.1 percent on election day, 6.9 percent in advanced in-person voting, and 10.0 percent in absentee balloting.
If the changes in the voting law forced different types of voters to the polls on Tuesday than voted on election day in November, these patterns from November--with Walker doing best on election day--will have little relevance.
In short, the turnout data available provide little insight regarding what will happen when votes are tallied at the end of the day on Tuesday.