(NewsNation) — Despite fears that new voting restrictions in Georgia would suppress turnout, particularly in communities of color, the number of ballots cast in the first two days of early voting has outpaced what it was in the last midterm and presidential elections.
According to statistics from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, 291,740 people had voted as of Tuesday, exceeding the total of 216,018 during the same period in 2018. According to the nonpartisan website georgiavotes.com, more than 100,000 Black voters have cast ballots, roughly 1.5 times more than the 73,000 who voted during the first two days of early voting in 2018.
The law passed in March 2021 created stricter ID requirements for absentee ballots, reduced the number of ballot drop boxes and reduced hours for early voting, among a plethora of other changes. An analysis by The New York Times found the revisions would likely disproportionately impact the state’s urban areas such as Atlanta and its suburbs.
Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and President Joe Biden, have criticized the law, claiming it will disenfranchise Black voters.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s chief election official under the secretary of state, refuted that assertion Wednesday on “Dan Abrams Live” and argued 95% of the law is about “simple election administration.”
“I’m sick and tired of people from up north coming down here and saying, ‘You’re all a bunch of racist white folks trying to disenfranchise African Americans,'” Sterling said. “Our office defends every person’s right to vote.”
In what appeared to be a revenge move, the law also removed the secretary of state as a voting member from the State Election Board. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in 2020 rebuffed efforts by former President Donald Trump to “find” votes that would allow him to declare victory in the state, drawing the ire of the former president and Republicans more broadly.
“Frankly, it was the dumbest part of the law,” Sterling said of the change. “It was political punishment.”
Opponents of the legislation have zeroed in on changes to provisional ballots, which previously a voter could cast if they showed up at the wrong precinct. The new law removes that remedy, instead forcing voters to travel to their correct precinct if voting before 5 p.m.
Abrams spoke out against the law again Wednesday in an appearance on MSNBC, where she claimed a homeless woman in Forsythe County was told she couldn’t vote and was denied a provisional ballot.
“Voter suppression is a threat to our democracy and it’s real,” Abrams said. “They know what they’re doing but they’re trying to distract us with false equivalence and reductive arguments.”
Abrams, who lost to Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018 and is running against him again this year, maintains the state’s laws are meant to make voting for Black people more difficult.
Sterling says that’s not the case.
“It’s a pretty well constructed law, it’s about election administration and they’re demonizing it,” Sterling said. “Anybody who wants to cast a vote legally in the state can cast a vote legally.”