Georgia voters crush all-time turnout record before Election Day

Voters wearing masks wait in line to vote early outside the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Savannah. (Russ Bynum, Associated Press)

Over three weeks of early voting, Georgians lined up -- sometimes for hours -- and smashed the previous record for votes cast before Election Day.

When the count came in Friday night, 3.8 million ballots were cast at in-person voting sites or by mail. That is a 63% increase in total voter turnout from 2016, when 2.3 million ballots were cast in advance.

Georgia is on pace to exceed the state’s all-time record for voting in any election: 4.1 million in 2016. State elections officials predict that nearly 6 million votes will be cast in the state when the polls close on Tuesday evening.

Some voters said they waited until Friday -- the last day -- because it was convenient for them and it was fast and easy.

Election officials predicted crowds and extended wait times Friday, especially after Tropical Storm Zeta knocked out power to several polling places in the state, causing counties to delay or close early voting locations on Thursday.

The Secretary of State’s Office said outages caused early voting to be postponed in at least 16 counties, including three in metro Atlanta. All voting locations were back open on Friday.

Poll workers anticipate that Election Day may not be as crowded since so people did participate in early voting.

“All the voters who have come through and voted early that helps relieve the pressure on Tuesday,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said his biggest concern is outstanding absentee ballots. While nearly 1.2 million have been received by elections officials, more than 350,000 that were sent out have not been returned. It’s too late to mail it in, so still have yours, take it to a secure dropbox in your county -- likely your county’s elections office -- before 7 p.m. Tuesday.

While early voting has ended, the presidential campaigns have not. Both Biden and Trump are planning a last-minute push in Georgia over the weekend. Trump will campaign in Rome, Georgia, on Sunday. Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris will also return to Georgia on Sunday and former President Barack Obama is planning a Biden rally in Atlanta on Monday.

State elections officials expect Georgia turnout could reach up to 6 million voters by the time all ballots are counted after Election Day. The state’s previous high for voting turnout was 4.1 million voters in the 2016 election.

For Election Day, poll workers remind people to remember to check that they are registered to vote beforehand and to not wear any political items when coming to vote.