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15,000 Newton voters cast ballots in-person before Election Day in Senate runoff
Advance voting 2022 runoff
Voters line up Friday, Dec. 2, to cast ballots on the final day of Advance Voting before Election Day in the runoff between Republican Herschel Walker and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., for Warnock's U.S. Senate seat. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — Almost 15,000 Newton County voters already have cast their ballots in-person in the U.S. Senate runoff election before today.

The figure represents about a 19% turnout of the county's 78,000 active voters who had already gone to the polls before Election Day today, Dec. 6 — not including absentee voters by mail or military voters.

The ballot only includes one choice: Republican challenger Herschel Walker or incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

Newton County election officials did not report any problems with machines during the seven-day period, though some voters complained Friday about being required to stand outside in frigid weather mid-morning.

Poll officials moved the line of voters outside after "a sizable subset of the group" complained about fumes from work done on the floor in a gym where voters previously had lined up. They were allowed to return later in the morning, said Board of Elections Chairman Phil Johnson.

Five weekday voting days were required in each county statewide. Newton County and some other counties added two weekend days, Nov. 26 and 27 — giving Newton a total of seven Advance Voting days.

An average of more than 2,000 voters per day — double the daily number of in-person advance voters before the General Election in November — filed through Newton County’s two locations at Turner Lake Center near downtown Covington and Prospect Church in west Newton between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2, election officials said. 

A total of 14,970 voted Advance In-Person (AIP) for an average of 2,140 per day. 

Only about 800 voted on Saturday, Nov. 26, and 875 on Sunday, Nov. 27, at one location provided at Turner Lake, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Voter turnout then jumped to 2,393 on the first day that two locations were provided on Monday, Nov. 28, and the daily number steadily increased throughout the week before peaking on Thursday, Dec. 1, with 2,922 casting ballots.

Johnson praised both the Turner Lake and Prospect Church locations for their availability of parking and indoor spaces which served as voting areas.

He said both had proven considerably more useful as early voting locations than the Newton County Administration Building which served as the lone location for the 2020 presidential election. Parking quickly became scarce and voters were forced to line up outside under canopies provided by the county.

However, Johnson also said the General Assembly's 2021 bill that included numerous changes to state voting laws reduced the early voting period before runoff elections. The change resulted in Georgia having only up to seven days of early voting for the runoff in a heavy turnout election, he said.

Johnson said it was a challenge to adequately staff each location for the voter turnout in the heavily publicized and financed election.

In future runoff elections, the Board of Elections will provide more machines at each location, Johnson said.

Statewide, turnout for the 2022 Runoff reached 26.4% of active Georgia voters before Election Day. A total of 1.7 million voters cast ballots in-person during the Advanced Voting period, the Georgia Secretary of State's office reported. 

Friday’s total of 352,953 shattered the previous one-day record for Early Voting set in the 2016 Presidential Election when 252,715 voters cast ballots. 

Monday and Tuesday both showed totals above 300,000 ballots cast, with the lowest total of 286,000 voters going to the polls on Wednesday. Thursday’s total of 298,000 nearly broke the 300,000 mark, the Secretary of State's office reported.

In-person turnout throughout the week was 1,712,651 with total turnout reaching 1,852,593 including Absentee and Military voters. 

“Georgia has struck the perfect balance between accessibility and security,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “These historic turnout levels emphasize that any lawful voter who wants to cast a ballot can do so easily. Turnout and voter participation is excellent. Our elections division will continue working with county election directors to expand early voting opportunities in the future.”

Polling locations will be open today, Dec. 6, until 7 p.m., and can be found on the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page. Georgians must vote at their assigned precinct on Election Day.