Just two weeks ahead of the presidential election, Georgia's early in-person voting numbers have already broken records, with nearly 1.5 million people turning out to the polls. Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, spoke with CBSN on Monday and said that early voting and absentee voting is the easiest and most secure way for residents to cast their ballots.
Raffensperger applauded residents and election officials for the record-breaking numbers. "What this means is people are really energized and engaged in this race and we prepared for it. We're expecting probably over 5.5 million voters," Raffensperger told CBSN's Caitlin Huey-Burns.
At the close of Sunday's polls, the state saw a 67.2% increase in early in-person turnout and a 653.4% increase in accepted absentee ballots, according to state officials. Amid the , voters have been forced to choose between long early voting lines or absentee mail-in ballots. Even before the pandemic, Georgia offered its residents 16 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.
While Raffensperger is encouraging residents to vote by mail, President Trump has, without citing evidence, linked the process to voting fraud. Raffensperger, however, isn't worried about the accusations. "In Georgia, we have the appropriate guardrails to make sure that we can secure the vote," he said. "We know who those voters are. We have voter identification. We really feel comfortable about the results. You'll have confidence in Georgia that we got the process right. We don't send out mail ballots to anyone unless they've been requested. And we make sure that our voter rolls are kept fresh, clean and accurate — that's really important."
Georgia isn't the only state breaking election records this year. North Carolina, Ohio, and Alamba all broke their absentee voting records, averaging nearly a million absentee ballot requests, respectively. Nationwide, states that have started early in-person voting are seeing massive lines at polling sites.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Georgia's primary was delayed twice. Once scheduled for June, polling stations saw a scattered and difficult process to vote. Voters across the state waited in hours-long lines, while machines in several key polling stations broke down. For Georgia residents worried about long wait times, Raffensperger suggests planning ahead by voting early or by absentee.
"We always tell people that voting in a pandemic has its challenges and we're expecting record turnout. So, you will see a localized wait in some locations. But if you look at this last week, some spots in Fulton County had some lines, but other parts of the county had zero wait times," Raffensperger said. "So during the early voting period, it's the best time to vote, check with your county, you can see what the wait times are, and then go to those locations where there won't be any wait."
Early voting in Georgia ends on October 30, which is also the last day residents can request an absentee ballot. The ballots must be received or dropped off in person by November 3 at 7 p.m. local time.