Early voting in Georgia’s special House election closed Friday evening with over 140,000 ballots cast, with overall turnout looking likely to rise in Tuesday’s closely watched matchup between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
The early voters in the second round include over 36,000 people who did not participate in April, according to data from the Georgia secretary of state’s office. That includes past voters who stayed home as well as newly registered voters who added their names to the rolls in Georgia’s 6th District after the primary.
The total number of voters on Tuesday is expected to surpass the high turnout in the first round, when over 192,000 voters cast ballots, including about 57,000 who voted early. The final turnout on Tuesday could easily exceed the vote total in the 2014 midterm elections, when over 210,500 people voted in the district.
The high levels of voting reflect extraordinarily high local interest in the race. After a $50 million campaign (a national record for a House race), 92 percent of voters said they are watching the race "closely," including 64 percent following it "very closely," according to a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution poll. And 52 percent of voters said in the poll that they think the race between Handel and Ossoff is more important than past elections.
Both parties have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round, when Ossoff got over 48 percent of the vote — 3,612 votes short of a majority that would have won the seat for the Democrat without a runoff. Handel qualified for the June 20 runoff in second place with 20 percent of the vote, though Republican candidates combined for 51 percent support in the first round.
Handel and the GOP have focused on approximately 35,000 voters who cast GOP ballots in Georgia’s 2016 presidential primary but did not vote on April 18. Democrats have fewer outstanding base votes to chase, with about 11,000 2016 presidential primary voters in the district who didn’t cast ballots in April. Ossoff’s campaign is also seeking support from thousands of newly registered voters and some independents who are not regular voters.