Early voting totals up in some Georgia primary runoffs

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgians have a week left to vote early in primaries forced to runoff elections, including the Republican contest for retiring Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's seat in Congress.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office reported that more than 53,000 people so far cast ballots for races around the state since July 5. Georgia law requires a runoff if no candidate wins a majority in a general primary. There are no statewide races this time, but a competitive congressional and several heated local races are drawing interest in the heat of summer.

In Cobb County, for example, election officials are seeing higher turnout for earlier voting in the Republican runoff to lead the county's commission than they did in May. Incumbent chair Tim Lee is trying to hold off a challenge from Mike Boyce, who got the highest vote total in the primary but fell short of the majority needed to prevent a runoff.

Janine Eveler, director of elections for the Cobb County Board of Elections, said about 2,800 people voted early in the runoff so far compared to about 1,680 at this point in May.

"It is unusual," Eveler said. "Normally, we see those numbers go down for runoffs."

The contest between Boyce and Lee has been heated, frequently focused on Lee's negotiations to bring the Atlanta Braves to a new stadium outside city limits. Boyce argues that private negotiations kept citizens in the dark, despite inclusion of county-backed bond sales. Lee argues that all development projects start with private negotiations and touts the potential economic benefits of SunTrust Park, scheduled to open in 2017.

Other races to be decided next Tuesday include the GOP runoff between state Sen. Mike Crane and former West Point mayor Drew Ferguson in west Georgia's Third Congressional District. The victor faces Democrat Angela Pendley in November in a deep-red district.

Two incumbent Republicans and one Democrat in the state House of Representative face challengers, while the leader of Georgia's Legislative Black Caucus hopes to become Democrats' nominee in a competitive state Senate district.

Early voting wraps up Friday. For those who prefer to vote in person, polls open at 7 a.m. on July 26.