Early voting’s short lines likely in the past as turnout is expected to surge

    Most voters reported a short wait at State Farm Arena in Atlanta this month, but the final days of early voting are likely to bring longer lines across the state. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

    Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger Wednesday drew an analogy between customers waiting in long lines when they arrive at once at a busy restaurant and what Georgia’s early voters can expect when they arrive at the polls the rest of this week.

    “This is just like at noontime when everyone decides to go to their favorite chicken sandwich place, and you wonder ‘Why do we have all these lines?’” he said. “Just think about that kind of rush.”

    Early voting in Georgia began Oct. 12 and ends Friday ahead of Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. Turnout has been historically high, and that will likely continue until polls close Nov. 3.

    “There will be lines, so just bear with everyone,” Raffensperger said. “The counties have had, fortunately, three weeks of preparing their poll workers for this. And we’ll open up all the precincts for 12 hours, but there will be a big turnout, and there will be lines from time to time.”

    Nearly 3.4 million Georgians have already cast a ballot in 2020, either in person or by mailed absentee ballot. At this point in the 2016 election, 1.7 million Georgians had voted.

    The first week of early voting was marked by long lines, but wait times have decreased in the weeks since after the state addressed technical glitches, despite big turnout from voters.

    By the time all the votes are counted, as many as 6 million Georgians might cast ballots this year, up from 4.1 million in 2016. That could mean a busy final three days of voting.

    “Typically, Thursday and Friday are the biggest days where people come out, they realize, ‘Oh, it’s the last day, last two days, I don’t want to stay in those lines on Tuesday, I have other things to do,’” Raffensperger said. “And so that’s when people really get focused in on getting out there.”

    A wild card for Thursday is Tropical Storm Zeta, which posed enough of a threat of high winds and drenching rain across north Georgia that many schools closed across the region for the day.

    Early voters can cast a ballot at any early voting location in their county, but on Election Day voters must cast ballots at their assigned precinct. You can confirm your polling spot at the secretary of state’s website at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

    Some county election departments, including Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett, provide estimated wait times online for early voting locations on their websites..

    Whether you plan to vote early or on Nov. 3, you will need to bring a valid photo ID.

    Voters who requested an absentee ballot will need to return them by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Raffensperger recommended those voters bring their absentee ballots to a drop box or their local election office as soon as possible to ensure they are received by the deadline. It is too late now to count on the postal service to deliver a ballot on time.

    People who have requested an absentee ballot can still vote in person, but are asked to bring their absentee ballot with them and will need to fill out paperwork voiding it.

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.