Voter special election .jpg

In this June 15 file photo, a voter casts her ballot in the special election to replace former state Rep. Bert Reeves.

More than 2,600 voters had cast their ballots in the July 13 special election runoff for the Georgia House District 34 seat as of Friday morning.

Friday was the last day of early voting in the election. The final early vote tally was not expected to be made available until Saturday morning.

Of the 2,680 ballots that had been cast by Friday morning, 1,859 were cast at Cobb’s main election office and 821 were cast at the North Cobb Regional Library. Two hundred and five absentee ballots had been issued, 133 had been returned and one was rejected.

The district, which covers parts of Marietta and Kennesaw, has about 42,000 registered voters, meaning approximately 6% of registered voters had voted by end-of-day Thursday. Special elections are notorious for bringing low voter turnout, though the early voting tally is already higher than it was in June, during the first round of the election, when fewer than 2,500 voted.

That first, June round was conducted as a “jungle primary,” in accordance with state law. In a jungle primary, all candidates run against each other on one ballot, regardless of party. The top two vote-getters, Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith, advanced to the runoff.

About 7,000 votes were cast in the first round of voting, a turnout of about 16.6%.

Seabaugh won 47% of the vote in the first round and Smith won 25%. The combined vote share was 59% for the two Republican candidates and 41% for the two Democratic candidates.

Election official Beau Gunn, Cobb’s registration manager, said he was pleasantly surprised that more people had voted in the two weeks of runoff early voting than voted in three weeks of early voting in the last round.

“It’s kind of hard to tell what to make of it, but I’m certainly happy to see more people coming out,” Gunn said.

Gunn theorized the daily voting tally may have been higher due to a shorter early voting period, or that some voters were waiting until the race was narrowed down to two candidates.

The election will determine the successor to former state Rep. Bert Reeves, a Republican who vacated the seat to take a job at Georgia Tech. About 30,000 people voted in the district in November 2020, when Reeves won reelection over Smith with 56% of votes.

The election is also one of the first to be subject to Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s controversial new election law. Some of the provisions of the law didn’t go into effect until after the first round of voting. Gunn said the state has told Cobb to follow the same laws that were in effect during the first round. This means, for instance, that SB 202’s voter ID requirement for absentee ballots is not being observed in this election.

“There’s certain pieces that just don’t apply for the runoff, that, in fact, will (apply) in November,” Gunn said.

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