Senate race in Georgia between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock

Voters were faced with long lines and long waits on Friday when early voting ended in the Georgia Senate runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

As of midnight Saturday, a total of more than 1.8 million ballots had been cast, according to the State Department. More than 1.7 million of those ballots were cast in person at priority polling stations across the state.

Voting officially closed at 7 p.m. ET Friday night, but several polling stations in Metro Atlanta counties remained open to allow voters already in line to cast their ballots.

Election officials announced the record-breaking numbers heading into Election Day on Tuesday. Gabriel Sterling, Chief Operating Officer of the Georgia Secretary of State, tweeted on Friday that “the Georgia Voters just blew away the daily record for early voting today”.

According to the Foreign Minister, more than 350,000 Georgians took part in the early voting on Friday.

Despite several days this week of historically high early voting numbers, the state as a whole will have far fewer voters ahead of the election than it did in the 2021 runoff, when more than 3.1 million Georgians voted by mail or in person ahead of Election Day.

This year’s phase is half the length of when voters first voted for Warnock in a runoff in special elections in January 2021. Georgia’s Election Integrity Law of 2021 — commonly known as SB202 — has significantly reduced the overall duration of runoff campaigns and the deadline for early voting for runoff elections.

The new law sets the runoff date four weeks after the general election, up from the previous nine weeks. Also, two of the previously required three-week early votings have been eliminated. Districts only had to allow early in-person voting Monday through Friday this week, although they could choose to add a few extra days.

The group of new voters who are entitled to vote in the runoff is also smaller this year. The shortened deadline of four weeks meant the filing deadline was also much earlier – the day before the November 8 election. Voters who have not registered by November 7 – before the need for a runoff was even known – will not be eligible to vote in that runoff.

When SB202 was signed into law, Republican lawmakers argued that the shortened schedule would benefit county election administrators. Voting rights advocates argued the law was oppressive and would hit the most marginalized communities.

Around 140,000 Georgians have voted by post so far. Postal voting documents must be received by the voting deadline on Tuesday.

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