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Why Early Voting in Georgia May Prove Public Opinion Polls Wrong

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

The latest public opinion polls out of Georgia show that Governor Nathan Deal has opened up a bit of lead on his opponent, Democrat Jason Carter -- by as much as 6 points, according to a WSB-TV/Landmark poll. The same poll shows Republican David Perdue leading by 4 points over Democrat Michelle Nunn in the U.S. Senate race.

While this poll seems to indicate that Republicans have an advantage going into Election Day, early voting numbers may tell a different story. These races are still going to be very close.

Several reports indicate that voter turnout nationwide may be down from a typical midterm election year because of a lack of competitive races and general dissatisfaction with the government and the political process. However, in Georgia, voter turnout may actually be higher than expected because of these major statewide races.

According to the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, early voting in Georgia is up 20 percent from what it was in 2010 -- the last midterm election. There were a total of 939,136 ballots cast during the early voting period, which ended on Friday. Approximately 90 percent of the ballots were cast in person.

What this means for which candidates actually have the advantage going into Election Day is not entirely clear. However, on Monday, the Atlanta Daily World reported that 31.2 percent of early votes cast were from African-American voters, a voting demographic that tends to support Democratic candidate. This is a higher percentage of the total early vote than in 2012, when blacks cast 29.2 percent of all early ballots.

A total of 36.9 percent of votes cast were from non-white voters and nearly 55 percent of early voters were female.

With this boost in voter enthusiasm, there is no clear prediction that can be made with statewide races in Georgia, but they are going to be extremely competitive. Republicans may not be as safe as people think in Georgia, which would prove the latest public opinion polls wrong.

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