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Abrams Encouraged by Turnout, but Still Wary of Voter Suppression

Stacey Abrams campaigns on College Square Oct. 19. Credit: Fabienne Mack

Record turnout for early voting is a reason to believe polls showing Stacey Abrams trailing Gov. Brian Kemp are wrong, Abrams and top staffers said Monday, but they also said the high turnout doesn’t show that Republicans’ new voting law isn’t having an impact.

“More people in the water does not mean there are fewer sharks,” Abrams said in a conference call with reporters. “The barriers are real… People are showing up in spite of the barriers.”

Senate Bill 2020—passed by Republicans after Democrats’ surprising wins in Georgia and President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud—clamped down on absentee voting by restricting drop boxes and requiring photo ID to vote by mail. It also allows voters to challenge the eligibility of other voters. White supremacist and other far-right groups have challenged 90,000 voters, according to Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ campaign manager. Almost all the challenges were rejected by local election boards.

Mail-in voting is down sharply this year, although much of that likely can be attributed to the pandemic easing. About 79,000 Georgians have voted by mail, which is just 11% of the total at this time two years ago and 60% of 2018, Groh-Wargo said.

However, a record 800,000 Georgians have already voted in person—and those voters’ demographics skew towards Democrats. About 56% are women and 36% are Black, which exceeds the proportion of Black voters from 2018 and 2020. Groh-Wargo said the campaign tried to encourage people to turn out during the usually slow first week of early voting to reduce lines later on, and so they can focus resources on a smaller pool of voters who haven’t yet cast a ballot.

Abrams lost by just 50,000 out of 4 million votes in 2018, but this year’s polls mostly show her trailing badly. She was losing by 10 points in a Georgia News Collaborative poll from early October, and a more recent poll from the left-leaning Data for Progress showed Kemp leading 53%-43%.

Abrams argued that the polls don’t reflect anger over hospital closures, abortion restrictions or lax gun laws.

“This turnout is a reflection of the enthusiasm we’re seeing, and our admonition that polls are a snapshot, but who are they taking a picture of?” she said.

State Rep. El-Mahdi Holly (D-McDonough) said Abrams’ much publicized problems among Black men are a myth.

“When you call us by name, we show up,” Holly said, citing concern in the Black community over issues like housing and Medicaid expansion.

Early voting runs through Friday, Nov. 4, including this Saturday and Sunday. For a list of early voting sites and hours in Athens, click here.