ATLANTA — With only one week left of early voting in the Peach State, the state’s top elections official said turnout will likely be its highest in the final few days.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger warned voters Monday that as the clock ticks down to Election Day, lines will likely be long.
“As we head into that final week of early voting, we expect even more higher turnout than we've seen so far,” he said during a press conference. “With that, there may be lines. Expect lines — long lines. The counties are doing their best. You will see lines, we ask those that are in them to be patient — patient with your poll workers.”
As of Sunday night, more than 2.75 million ballots have been cast by voters in Georgia — nearly 1.8 million of those in-person during the first two weeks of early voting. Compared to ballots cast at this time in 2016, there has been a 106% increase, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Last week, early, in-person voting averaged more than 200,000 votes cast a day, he said. This week, election officials are expecting 300,000-plus votes cast a day.
Raffensperger also appealed to Georgians to wear a mask when voting in person. The state is still under COVID-19 restrictions and polling locations are taking extra cleaning precautions that are also a factor in increasing lines and the time it takes to cast a ballot.
"If you are invincible and you don't think you'll ever get COVID would you still please wear a mask?” he urged. “Because many of our poll workers are not invincible but they're coming out because they understand how important it is to make sure that your vote does count.”
With coronavirus cases on the rise again in Georgia and most of the country, voters can still utilize absentee ballots but the timetable for returning them is shrinking.
About 950,000 Georgians have already cast ballots via absentee, but more than 640,000 are still outstanding. Raffensperger pleaded with those who still have ballots sitting on their kitchen tables to get those in the mail or dropped off at a secure dropbox location in their county as soon as they can.
"The window for requesting and voting an absentee ballot is rapidly closing,” he said. “Please, if you haven't returned it, do it this week. Now is the time.”
In an effort to curb a backlog of absentee ballots that may drag out official results for days, a court ruling allowed Georgia counties last week to beginning scanning received absentee ballots — but not tabulating them. Counties are already in the process of adjudicating absentee ballots that were flagging in the system, Raffensperger said.
“We'll have a relatively timely result," he said, and Georgians can expect results sooner than residents of some other states.