10/1 - What About 2018?

Looking at 2018 voting behavior among the 2020 electorate so far


If you feel like the political world is melting down you are not alone. From a Presidential debate like no other, to Attila the Hun paying the Peach State a visit, you might feel like Guam is about to flip upside down. Thankfully we are not following the horse race that is the Presidential race, but in the coming weeks will dig into how that race is trickling down the ballot impacting Georgia races. 

Voting Behavior, Three Ways

As you have no doubt noticed, the Georgia Votes website compares voting behavior with the previous similar election. That means comparing the 2018 Governor’s race to the 2014 Governor’s race, the 2020 primary to the 2016 primary, and now the 2020 general election to the 2016 general election. 

That’s how we’re able to say things like 28.4% of voters who have requested an absentee ballot, and 21.8% of voters who have had their ballots accepted, did not vote in the 2016 election. At least not in Georgia. But given the changes we have seen in voting behavior and partisan lean over the past few years some people have been wondering how these numbers look if you compare to 2018. So today we’d like to share those numbers.

Of the approximately 1.4 million people who have requested a ballot so far, 49.1% of them voted early in 2018, 24.5% of them voted day-of in 2018, and 26.8% did not vote in 2018.

If we look at 133,000 votes received, 60.9% of them voted early in 2018, 19.2% voted day-of, and 19.9% did not vote.

So while we are seeing a lower percentage of non-voters when looking at the 2018 behavior, there is still a very large population of new voters. Even when comparing to the 2018 Governor’s race, which saw Stacey Abrams receive more votes than any statewide Democratic candidate in history, we have seen over 150,000 new voters of color request ballots.

And if you like this kind of data, here’s the really good news. 2018 vote comparison data, along with the usual breakdowns by race, gender, and age, is now available on the statewide view for GeorgiaVotes.com

The page is admittedly getting busier, sorry about that. There’s only one more thing I expect to add to the home pages, and that’s a read on the partisan lean of the applicants and voters so far. For instance, we know that of the current applicants, about 507k voted in the Democratic primary in June, 320k voted in the Republican primary, 20k pulled a non-partisan ballot, and nearly 550k did not vote at all.

That measurement, which I’ll be evolving over time, will hopefully go live on the site tomorrow.

US Senate Candidates and Home Base

Georgia political history normally has shown statewide elected officials using a geographic base of support to gain success statewide. For Sam Nunn and Sonny Perdue it was Houston County. For Nathan Deal it was Forsyth County. And for Roy Barnes and Johnny Isakson it was Cobb County. Even Governor Brian Kemp has relied on his Athens base of support to run the gamut of the 2018 primary to eventually appeal to rural voters in the general to become Governor. 

More frequently now statewide candidates lack this concentrated base of home support. Lieutenant Governor Duncan, Attorney Chris Carr, and even though he claims Houston County as home, U.S. Senator David Perdue all lack the strong geographic base to propel their statewide campaigns. Many in the current crop of candidates for statewide office also lack the true home bases of support in the state. Senator Kelly Loeffler, Rev. Raphael Warnock, Jon Ossoff, and Matt Lieberman all hail from metro Atlanta, and all lack a support base in the metropolitan area that they can rally the way Nunn or Isakson could.. 

Only Representative Doug Collins can call on a well of support from a geographic region; his being based around Forsyth County, his home county and the core of his northeast Georgia Congressional district. Given the dynamics of a jungle primary, it will be interesting to see if the one candidate with a unique geographic region can follow the path of old school Georgia pols and win a statewide elected office, or if the growth of metro Atlanta will continue to swamp the campaigns of those who don’t claim a metro Atlanta county as home.

County Focus

Bibb County has led the way in voter participation in Georgia so far. While the raw applications can’t compare with the big-4 metro Atlanta counties, the accepted vote totals are exceeding the larger counties and we thought this was worth pointing out at this early stage.

Part of the reason for not only the participation, but the quick submission and processing of absentee ballots is they have had probably the most practice of any board of elections in the state this year. Bibb County saw contentious elections on the local level this June that also led to a countywide run-off for the Mayorship of the consolidated Macon-Bibb government. Note the Mayorship was an open race with the incumbent term limited and the first time the seat was open since 2007. 

This led to a very intense political season and campaigns that also increased awareness of absentee ballot voting. Both the primary and run-off saw the Bibb County Board of elections deal with the ups and downs of vote counting. These initial difficulties have allowed them to work out the kinks and it appears they are using the run up to the November general election to implement new and improved processes. Between those improvements and an electorate that has become well versus in absentee voting so far this year you have the reality where Bibb County has already accepted 5,785 ballots compared to only 38 from the much larger Fulton County.


32 days remain till election day and with every day we get more data and better insights as to what is happening in Georgia this cycle. We continue to want to put out the most informative newsletter we can and feedback helps us know where to look and how we are doing. Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions, by responding to this email or reaching out to Ryan directly on Twitter (@gtryan).