After five days of early voting in the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, Democratic voter turnout has significantly outpaced that of Republicans.
That is a good sign for Democrats hoping that the surge in liberal enthusiasm after the election of President Donald Trump will be enough to elect 30-year-old candidate Jon Ossoff. The seat opened up when Trump named former Rep. Tom Price to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Of the more than 8,100 people who have voted so far in the suburban Atlanta district, 44 percent were Democrats and 23 percent were Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida.
McDonald identified Democrats and Republicans based on the last primary each early voter participated in, information that can be found in state voter files. The remaining voters ― roughly one-third of the total so far ― have no record of primary voting in Georgia.
Although voters’ preferences can change from primary to primary, making that data imperfect, it is the most reliable indicator of partisanship in a state with nonpartisan voter registration.
McDonald’s end-of-week estimates are consistent with the findings of New York Times election expert Nate Cohn for the first day of early voting. Using a slightly different methodology, Cohn found that Democrats constituted 60 percent of voters of those who voted on Monday, compared with 28 percent of Republicans.
It is important to note of course that early voting is not a rock-solid indicator of final election outcomes. Early general-election voting patterns in North Carolina and Florida, for example, appeared to favor Hillary Clinton, but she ended up losing both states in November.
And early voting in Georgia’s 6th district continues until April 14. Election Day itself is April 18.
In Georgia’s jungle primary system, Ossoff faces many Democratic and Republican challengers. A candidate can win outright in the first round by capturing 50 percent of the vote. Short of that, the top two contenders proceed to a runoff election on June 20.
Democrats across the country have seized on the race as an early opportunity to inflict damage on Republicans after Trump’s election. Ossoff’s candidacy has attracted millions of dollars in donations, including $1 million alone from the readers of liberal news site Daily Kos.
Television star Alyssa Milano has done her part to pitch in for Ossoff, offering early voters rides to the polls.
Ossoff is campaigning on standard mainstream Democratic priorities. On his campaign website, he declares his commitment to containing health insurance premiums, increasing the minimum wage, and fighting gender and racial discrimination in pay.
Although the 6th district has voted Republican consistently in the past, it is home to a more educated, wealthier type of Republican voter that has typically been more averse to Trump’s populist style. While Tom Price cruised to reelection by a 23-point margin in November, Trump defeated Clinton in the district by a mere percentage point.