US midterm elections: Record turnout as early voting starts in Georgia
A record number of voters turned out in the US state of Georgia on the first day of early voting, with the state the site of several key races in the November midterm elections.
Almost double the number of people – 131,000 – cast their ballots than in the same period of the 2018 midterms.
The figure nearly matches the number of voters on the first early voting day of the 2020 presidential election.
Georgia is home to some of the country’s most closely-watched races.
The midterm elections on 8 November will determine seats in the two chambers of Congress – one-third of those in the Senate and all in the House of Representatives – as well as some governors and local officials.
As the elections will decide control of Congress, they will have a major impact on the remaining two years of Joe Biden’s presidency. At the moment, Democrats hold a majority in both the House and Senate which has helped Mr Biden pass legislation.
According to data released by election officials on Tuesday, the number of early voters who cast their ballots in Georgia on Monday marked an 85% increase on the first day of early voting in 2018.
Almost 12,000 absentee ballots were cast, bringing the state’s total first day turnout to more than 143,000.
During the 2020 presidential election, 136,739 people voted on the first day. Turnout is historically much higher in presidential elections than in midterm elections, which fall in the middle of a president’s four-year term of office.
Current polls suggest that the Republicans are likely to regain control of the House, while the Democrats are expected to narrowly retain the Senate.
Several key races are taking place in Georgia. The state is one of only a few – along with others such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio – which could determine control of the Senate.
The tight senatorial race, between former NFL player Herschel Walker and incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, is considered one of the most significant.
The race is also one that has been marked by controversy, with Mr Walker facing multiple claims that he fathered children by several women and that he allegedly paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion. Mr Walker supports a complete ban on abortions.
The race to become Georgia’s governor, meanwhile, pits Democrat Stacey Abrams – who was widely credited with helping Joe Biden win the state in 2020 – against its current Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Mr Kemp is currently leading in the polls.