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Early voters head to polls in droves for GA Senate runoff

(NewsNation) — Georgia voters continued to turn out in droves Wednesday, pushing the total number of ballots casts in the Senate runoff past 1 million just three days into early voting.

It’s the second runoff in as many years for the state that last year sent two Democrats to the Senate, which gave the party a trifecta of power in Washington. Though Democrats have already retained control of the Senate, the Georgia contest will determine if it is a 50- or 51-seat majority.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said roughly 250,000 voters went to the polls across the state Wednesday, following two days that each saw more than 300,000 people cast ballots. Combined with absentee ballots that have been received, more than 1 million votes have been cast in the runoff.

“We’re having tremendous turnout,” Raffensperger said Wednesday on “CUOMO.”

Though the state is setting records for its turnout, it comes in a condensed time period. Legislation overhauling the state’s election system last year cut in half the runoff calendar.

Single-day turnout numbers have been boosted as a result. Monday’s total of 301,545 was the largest early voting day in the state’s history, but it also came with lines that were hours long, The New York Times reported.

Because the early voting period is condensed, it’s unlikely this year’s numbers will surpass the 3.1 million early voters who turned out in last year’s runoff, which Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won. Warnock is now defending his seat against Republican Herschel Walker.

In addition to shortening the runoff period, the 2021 legislation also limited voting by mail and scaled back the number of drop boxes available. Republicans argued it was about election security and administration, while Democrats contended it would lead to voter suppression.

Election security became a major focus of this year’s midterms, and Raffensperger said at the end of the day, the runoff will be a fair and honest election.

“We make sure that our county election directors are making sure they do their work … and they’re doing remarkably well,” Raffensperger said. “Everyone’s vote is secure.”

Claims of malfeasance and election rigging have increased since 2020, when former President Donald Trump refused to accept defeat. The issue was especially prominent in Arizona, where Cochise County voted to delay the certification of the 2022 election, missing a Monday deadline mandated by state law.

It took more than a week for Maricopa County, the most populous county, to tabulate results, which allowed conspiracies to brew. More than 275,000 early voters dropped off their ballots on Election Day, which all then had to be signature-verified before they could be counted.

Raffensperger said if states can craft laws that allow for faster counting, it will build trust in the system.

“That gives voters confidence in the process,” Raffensperger said. “We’re making sure we have honest and fair elections and we report those results quickly.”