— Brian Kemp (@BrianKempGA) November 3, 2016
With only one day left to vote early, (you don’t want to stand in that line on the 8th people) nearly two million votes have already been cast in the state of Georgia according to the Secretary of State’s office.
That number jumped by almost 200,000 votes from the previous day’s total, so we can likely expect somewhere in the range of 2,300,000 total early votes by closing time this afternoon. That total would be a huge increase from the 2012 numbers, which saw 1,706,236 Georgians vote early in person and another 212,695 vote via absentee ballot.
A jump that large in early voting has to be good for one of the two parties, but the question, of course, is which?
The truth is it’s impossible to say. Accepted logic is that increased in-person early voting helps Democrats more, while absentee ballots help Republicans. In Florida, for example, Republicans lead in absentee votes 42% to 39%, while Democrats lead in early votes, 43% to 39% percent. One big difference in the Sunshine State – absentee ballot numbers are much higher, nearly the same as early voting numbers.
Georgia, of course, doesn’t require voters to list their party affiliation in a General Election, so we don’t know for certain who these early votes are going toward. In fact, studies are conflicted as to whether increased early voting even increases overall turnout. One recent study from the University of Wisconsin indicated that early voting actually decreases turnout, arguing that early voting takes attention away from get out the vote efforts that seek to drive election day numbers.
In late August and early September Georgia polls indicated that the race might be a tossup, with the state in danger of turning purple, (where have we heard that one before). Trump has steadily increased his lead in the weeks since, however, with the most recent polls showing him between 4 and 9 points ahead of Hillary Clinton. Those numbers are in line with what we saw in 2012, when Mitt Romney soundly defeated Barack Obama in the state by 8 points.
So what do these big early voting numbers mean? We’ll have to wait until Tuesday to find out for sure. Likely though they’re just proof that Secretary of State Brian Kemp has made early in-person and absentee voting easier. After all, who wants to stand in line for three hours on election day?