VALDOSTA – More residents are voting early in this year's mayoral race.

Early voting totals from the first week of the mayoral race, which also includes other municipal races, a "brunch bill" vote and a special purpose local option sales tax referendum, increased from 699 votes in 2015 to 1,178 votes in 2019 during the same period of early voting, according to the Lowndes County Board of Elections.

That is a 68% increase from 2015 to 2019.

Although a large increase on its nose, Trey Hood, professor of political science at the University of Georgia, warns the sample size could be misleading.

"Based on the percentage, it seems massive, but with the numbers being so small, it certainly is an increase but not huge," Hood said. 

Hood, an expert in Southern elections and election sciences, does not believe new voting machines have an effect and offers a simple solution.

"Seldom do elective administrative changes affect voter turnout," Hood said. "It's what is on the ballot, who's is in the races and what is going on locally."

Increased turnout is due to a multitude of variables, according to Deb Cox, Lowndes County supervisor of elections.

Cox and Hood agree having five mayoral candidates could be a leading cause of increased turnout.  

Cox mentioned Pew Research Center reporting heightened local election interest recently. That trend could coincide with the significant increase in voter turnout during the 2018 midterms among younger than 40 voters and minority (Asian and Hispanic specifically) voters, according to Pew Research Center.

"It's just a whole bunch of strange things combining together," Cox said.

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