ATLANTA (CN) — Early, in-person voting began Monday in Georgia where Republican Brian Kemp, currently Georgia's secretary of state, and Democrat Stacey Abrams are vying to succeed Nathan Deal as the next governor.
With over 6.8 million voters now registered and Georgia's all-time voter registration record broken, the election is already notable. If Abrams wins on Election Day, she will make history by becoming the first-ever black female governor in the United States.
From Now until November, voters in all 159 Georgia counties will be able to cast votes at polling places each weekday and on at least one Saturday during the early voting period.
Early voting has proven to be exceptionally popular in Georgia in recent years. In the 2014 election, early voting accounted for 37 percent of turnout. During the 2016 presidential election, 58 percent of voters chose to vote early.
According to recent polls, the two candidates for governor are in an exceptionally tight race. An October 9 poll conducted by the University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta's WSB-TV found Kemp leading Abrams 47.7 percent to 46.3 percent.
In the same poll, just 4 percent of the 1,232 voters polled said they were still undecided.
Those who have made up their minds seem to be particularly energized. Over 52,000 absentee ballots have already been mailed in, twice as many as were sent in at the same point in the 2014 midterm elections.
Requests for absentee ballots are 131 percent higher than they were in the 2014 election, according to state officials. It is believed that so far, black voters accounts for 42 percent that have been received to date.
An analysis from GeorgiaVotes.com, which compiles data from the Secretary of State's office, shows that requests for absentee ballots prior to the start of the in-person early voting period were 131 percent higher than they were in the 2014 election.
An analysis of voters' demographic data performed by Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Elections Project at the University of Florida, found black voters accounted for 42 percent of all absentee ballots cast as of October 1. That's a good sign for Abrams, who has worked to encourage minority voter turnout throughout her campaign.
According to Dr. Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political science professor, any edge Abrams might gain during mail-in voting may continue into in-person early voting but it won't guarantee her a win on November 6.
"The pattern we've seen in the last few years is the democratic candidate does really well in early voting and the Republican candidate catches up on Election Day. That's been the trend in Georgia over the last two to four years," Swint said.
"The real question is, to what extent will Republicans show up?" Swint added.
But for some voters, a decision to vote early isn't necessarily an indication of enthusiasm for either candidate.
Barbara Kruse, a 67-year-old retired human resources consultant from Atlanta's Morningside neighborhood, plans to mail in her ballot but says she's still struggling with her decision.
"I haven't completely decided. I'm waiting for more information to hopefully get at some real truth. I'm displeased with the candidates and the commercial tactics," she said.
"Everybody is blaming the other person with wild, bizarre claims that are not really on the money. It seems almost hysterical, some of the comments I see on the commercials. I feel that from both sides, so that's part of the problem with making up my mind," Kruse said.