When the Spalding County Board of Elections eliminated early voting on Sundays, Democrats blamed a new state law and accused the Republican-controlled board of intentionally thwarting “Souls to the Polls,” a get-out-the-vote program among Black churches to urge their congregations to cast ballots after religious services.
But after three weeks of early voting ahead of Tuesday’s primary, record-breaking turnout is undercutting predictions that the Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021 would lead to a falloff in voting. By the end of Friday, the final day of early in-person voting, nearly 800,000 Georgians had cast ballots — more than three times the number in 2018, and higher even than in 2020, a presidential year.
Voting rights groups and Democrats say they have changed their strategies to mobilize voters under the new rules. In Spalding County, for instance, local activists moved Souls to the Polls to a Saturday, and they defiantly promised that they would work twice as hard if that was what it took to protect voter access.
“It was a direct way to send a message to the Black community that they’re in charge now,” said Elbert Solomon, vice chairman of the county Democratic committee. “But every day we get people walking through the door, White and Black. A lot of people are concerned about their democracy.”