KENNESAW — Cobb County’s voter turnout rose in the last week of early voting as more locations became available, and now about 42% of the county’s registered voters have submitted ballots in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs.

Early voting in Cobb ended Thursday afternoon after the polls closed at 3 p.m. and the last voters on site cast their ballots.

As of Friday afternoon, a total of 226,580 Cobb residents voted either in-person or by absentee, with 114,096 from early voting and 112,484 returned absentee ballots, according to Cobb elections officials. Another 35,139 ballots have been issued but not returned.

At the end of early voting for the November election, Cobb ballots cast in-person reached 174,379; the total number of ballots submitted was 310,012.

As of December, there are 538,767 total registered voters in Cobb, according to the elections office.

Early voting in-person picked up in the last week, averaging 11,774 votes a day after a slow week when polls were closed Dec. 24, 25 and 26.

The runoff election, in which incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are defending their seats against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, will determine partisan control of the U.S. Senate. It will also decide one seat on the state’s five-member Public Service Commission, which regulates Georgia’s utilities, between Republican incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr. and Democrat Daniel Blackman.

At the North Cobb Regional Library near Kennesaw on Thursday, a long line stretched around the block toward the neighboring Northstar Place senior community.

Otis Watkins, an Acworth resident, said he waited about two hours before casting his ballot.

“The line was too long,” he said, adding that more locations should have been open for early voting, like they were for the general election. “They’re really making people stand in line to vote.”

He voted for Ossoff and Warnock because “we really need to get things done, instead of the obstruction and stuff that’s going on.”

Meg Bright of Smyrna said she was in line about an hour and a half, where “it went pretty quickly actually, for the line as big as it was.” A registered Republican, she voted for Loeffler and Perdue, as well as McDonald.

“I don’t believe in everything they stand for, but more than anything, I don’t support big government policies, which is a lot of what you see from Democrats,” she said.

Lines may be shorter Tuesday, which is Election Day, Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler told the MDJ.

“Lines on Election Day should not be long, since many people have already voted,” she said in an email. “Some isolated precincts may experience longer lines, of course. Some precincts have had a lower turnout in early voting, so that could mean they will turn out on Election Day or it might mean those voters are less engaged and will stay home.”

Turnout has been high for a runoff election. During advance voting in the 2016 presidential election, 141,409 Cobb voters cast their ballots in person, 27,313 more than Cobb’s 114,096 early voters for the Senate runoff. Cobb’s 112,484 absentee ballots returned for the runoff are well over the 24,224 absentee ballots that were accepted during the November 2016 election.

The last time a presidential election yielded a Senate runoff in Georgia was 2008, Eveler said, when Cobb’s overall turnout was 46.4%, and turnout has already reached 42%. In the 2008 runoff, just 40,692 early and absentee votes were submitted, over 185,000 fewer votes than Friday morning’s total.

Eveler said she expects results to be finished the Monday or Tuesday after Election Day. Election night results will include all in-person voting and absentee ballots that have already been counted. Absentee ballots received on Election Day will be counted in the following two to three days, and by Saturday or Monday elections staff will count provisional ballots, military and overseas ballots postmarked by Election Day and cured absentee ballots.

Those who want to vote in the runoff in person must now do so on Tuesday’s Election Day and go to their assigned precinct, which can be found at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. Anyone who received an absentee ballot but chooses to vote in person is to bring their ballot to surrender it at the poll.

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