Voter turnout for the March 12 presidential preference primary was slow at Harmon Pitner Elementary in Cobb County and many other polling places across Georgia. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Georgia voters on Tuesday helped cement Donald Trump and Joe Biden as the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees for the 2024 election.

The presidential preference primary wrapped up Tuesday with the incumbent president securing enough delegates in Georgia and a couple other states hosting primaries to clinch the Democratic Party’s nomination at the national convention.

Biden is headed toward a rematch against the former Republican president Trump, who also easily won Georgia on Tuesday and later in the evening surpassed the GOP delegate threshold to win the nomination after western state primaries closed voting.

By 10 p.m., 376,278 votes were counted for Trump in Georgia, giving him 52 of the state’s 59 delegates, based on unofficial results reported by 57% of the state’s 159 counties.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley trailed Trump with 67,643 votes, or 14% of the vote, a week after she withdrew from the race as Georgia early voting ended. No other candidate received more than 1% of the vote in the primary.

As Trump swept the other Republican primaries leading up to Tuesday, Haley was the last major contender to withdraw from the race.

Meanwhile, Biden had earned 199,470 of the 209,000 Democratic primary votes in Georgia.

Georgia will remain in the spotlight in November when state election officials predict 6 million voters are expected to go to the polls to vote for candidates for president, the state Legislature, Congress and various down ballot contests.

One hour after the polls closed on Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said about 12% of Georgia voters cast ballots in the presidential primary.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declared Tuesday’s presidential preference primary a successful first statewide election utilizing a new voter registration system. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Raffensperger estimated about one-third of Georgia’s 7 million active voters will participate in the May 21 general election primary and that number will greatly increase once November’s high stakes general election comes around.

“I don’t really do the prediction game too much,” he said.“ But we know that in November it’ll be just like 2020 with big numbers coming out so we’ll prepare the counties for that.”

Voters declare sides for 2024 election

It remains to be seen whether Biden can repeat his upset victory over Trump, who in 2020  became the rare Republican presidential candidate to lose in Georgia since 1992. The Peach State’s performance in the 2020 election was a crowning achievement for the Democratic Party as voters elected Biden to the White House, and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the U.S, Senate.

Poll workers in north Cobb and Cherokee counties said Tuesday morning’s voter turnout didn’t hold a candle to recent years’ big turnout elections, but a slow and steady trickle of ballot casters kept Carmel Elementary in Woodstock from feeling empty on Election Day.

Cherokee County voter Peggy Poole emerged from the school bearing a classic peach sticker proving her status as a Georgia voter.

Poole said she happily cast her ballot for Trump.

“He has to be better than what we have, which is the main reason, but I didn’t really necessarily see anything wrong with him when he was elected,” Poole said. “And I just think he got a shoddy time in 2020. And I just think that we just need a change.”

Poole said she was referring in part to Trump getting an unfair shake because of the economic issues that followed the pandemic.

“And then the voting, polls, the accusations of fraud or whatever it was,” she added. “And you know, it could have been, but we’ll never really know.”

Trump maintains that the 2020 election was rigged against him, even though multiple investigations, court cases and recounts have turned up no evidence of widespread fraud that November.

Fellow Cherokee voter David Watkins pulled the lever for Biden, but Watkins also had strong feelings about Trump.

“I voted for Biden because I don’t need a fool in the office of president,” he said. “I’m sorry, it’s just the way that I feel. He’s too controversial, and with him in office, the country would go to hell.”

Watkins said his vote was not just anti-Trump. He said he’s been happy with Biden’s term so far, listing health care as a top priority.

“They always say ‘Do you feel you’re better off or worse off?’ Personally, I’m better off,” he said. “That’s how I feel. I feel like I’ve been listened to by the things that he said he was going to do, and he did them. He had to fight tooth and nail along the way, but he did it.”

Election officials brace for rest of cycle

Although local election officials managed to conduct a smooth primary process on Tuesday, concerns remain heading into the general election primaries in May and Election Day on Nov. 5.

Paulding County Deidre Holden said her office has been waiting since Feb. 13 to receive new precinct cards notifying voters of changes in redistricting. Holden says the United States Postal Service has been slow to deliver those cards and mail absentee ballots to voters who requested them.

Her office has issued public notices about the changes to voters’ districts and she is encouraging voters to apply early for absentee ballots and to drop their ballots off at the election office or at a polling place instead of mailing them.

“Their lack of concern in delivering mail will be detrimental to our absentee voters in May and November, when their votes can affect the outcome of a close election,” Holden said. “It should not take 2-3 weeks for an absentee application to reach a local voter. This delays the issuing of the absentee ballot and the voter receiving their ballot in enough time to vote it and return it.”

The fallout from the 2020 election still lingers after Trump and many of his allies blamed rampant voter fraud for the former president’s losses in Georgia and several other states. Several months after the 2020 election, Georgia Republican lawmakers passed a controversial overhaul of the state’s election laws.

Georgia election officials are bracing for new voting rules that could be in place in time for November. Bills passed by one legislative chamber in the current session would add watermark security requirements to paper ballots, require the secretary of state develop an online system for the public to inspect ballots after elections and also require that text portions of ballots be used to tabulate votes instead of QR codes.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp became one of Trump’s favorite targets after refusing to help overturn the state’s 2020 election results.

Kemp said Tuesday that he voted in the Republican primary, but he did not say which GOP candidate got his vote. Despite the fraught history between them, Kemp said Tuesday that he would support Trump if he becomes the GOP nominee.

Kemp acknowledged that Georgia’s significance in this year’s presidential preference primary was more of an afterthought by the time polls opened on Tuesday.

“Regardless, there’s other things on the ballot, and people can send a message with their vote today. But the real action is going to be happening here in November, and I know we’re preparing for that and looking forward to it. It’s going to be a crazy, crazy election season for sure,” he said in remarks to reporters at the state Capitol Tuesday morning.

Georgia Recorder’s Jill Nolin and Ross Williams contributed to this report.

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The post Another fraught Georgia election season after predictable 2024 presidential primary appeared first on Georgia Recorder.

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