Early voting ahead of next week’s Georgia primaries ended Friday with an all-time high of more than 850,000 voters either casting a ballot in person or returning an absentee ballot.

Voters wait in line at a precinct in Cobb County on May 18, 2020. (Photo by Beau Evans)

Those totals represented a 168% increase over early voting ahead of the last gubernatorial primaries in 2018 and a 212% jump over early voting turnout for the primaries two years ago.

The record early voting showing is a testament of public trust in the process since the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed election reform legislation last year, GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Saturday.

The 2021 measure, branded by legislative Democrats as voter suppression, replaced the signature-match verification process for absentee ballots with a photo ID requirement and restricted the location of absentee ballot drop boxes.

“The incredible turnout we have seen demonstrates once and for all that Georgia’s Election Integrity Act struck a good balance between the guardrails of access and security,” Raffensperger said.

Republicans cast 483,149 early ballots compared to 368,949 voters who cast Democratic ballots. Independent voters cast 5,303 nonpartisan ballots.

The GOP top-of-the-ballot races have drawn the most attention this spring, with Gov. Brian Kemp facing a challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and University of Georgia football great Herschel Walker leading a field of candidates running for the U.S. Senate.

Stacey Abrams is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination unopposed, while incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has only token primary opposition.

Reports of Democrats choosing Republican primary ballots to vote against GOP candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump also may have helped swell early voting in GOP primaries.

Georgians who registered to vote by April 25 will be able to cast their primary ballots in person Tuesday on Election Day or return a previously requested absentee ballot by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams is the Bureau Chief of Capitol Beat News Service.