ATLANTA - Some metro Atlanta counties will break early voting records this year, while others appear to be on pace for similar totals to previous presidential elections.
Fulton County officials announced that as of Monday evening, 181,982 voters had cast in person early votes with four more days of early voting left. That number represents a dramatic increase from years past. According to Fulton County numbers, they had 150,184 early voters in 2008 and 152,563 in 2012.
"Traditionally, we don't get more than 30 percent, 35 percent people voting early in Fulton County," explained Richard Barron, director of the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections. "I'm hoping what this--this is a trend towards my goal, which is to get 50 to 60 percent of the people voting early."
Barron believes the more people who vote earlier, the more smooth things will go on Election Day.
"It takes pressure off of Election Day. If you have 400,000 people show up on one day, you're going to have long lines. There are a number of states--I believe 13--that have no early voting and those states have long lines on Election Day," he said.
Part of the reason Fulton County has seen an increase in the number of early voters is that they have drastically increased the number of early voting locations, said Barron. The county has 24 permanent locations and 12 of what they call "outreach sites," temporary polling places on college campuses and at senior centers.
Gwinnett County has also reported higher than normal early voting numbers. As of Tuesday afternoon, 85,292 people cast advanced in-person votes in Gwinnett. The county's total in 2008 was 88,798 and 85,655 in 2012.
Georgia State University associate professor of political science Sean Richey said there are likely two reasons for the increased numbers--early voting has become more widely accepted and voters are driven in this election year.
"It is a highly polarized election, but in some ways, that is also a motivational election," explained Richey. "So, people become very interested in making sure that not necessarily their candidate wins, but the other candidate loses and so I do believe people are motivated if not enthusiastic."
Both Cobb and DeKalb, however, appear to be drawing the same number of advanced voters as in previous years.
In Cobb County, 78,937 voters have already cast their ballots. In 2008, the total number of early voters in Cobb was 105,576. It was down slightly to 102,205 in 2012.
DeKalb County numbers show 103,696 people had early voted as of Monday. In 2012, voters in DeKalb cast 161,095 early ballots.
Early voting ends Friday at 7 p.m.