Area early voting numbers are dwarfing turnout four years ago, particularly in Republican-leaning Columbia County, and forecast apossible record voting year for the Augusta area.
As of Friday, Day 5 of the first week of advance voting, about 8,806 had cast ballots at the new advance voting center in Evans, Columbia County Board of Elections Executive Director Nancy Gay said.
That's well ahead of the first week of advance voting in 2012, when the fast-growing county had 5,102 vote early, she said.
Numbers also were up in Augusta-Richmond County, to 5,128 in the first week of voting, up from 4,572 four years ago, according to Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey.
Statewide data pointed to the week's voting as an early positive indicator for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, with fewerblack Georgia voters requesting and returning ballots than in 2012, The Associated Press reported.
Advance voters Roy and Martha Chalker made an afternoon of it Friday.
"Let's go to T's and eat lunch, let's go vote and let's go to a movie," said Roy Chalker.
Chalker, who works in Waynesboro, said it's tough to wait in lines at his Eastview polling place on election day.
Chalker said he is a Democrat.
"I vote for Republicans occasionally – I probably voted for one today – but I'm not voting for Trump," he said. "I think he's totallyunqualified – he's probably the least qualified person ever to run for president, and I've been voting since 1964."
Friday was the heaviest day for Columbia and Richmond counties, but advance voters in Richmond County tend to increase in numbereach week and eventually match or surpass turnout in Columbia, Bailey and Gay said.
Four years ago, advance voters increased in number every week in Richmond County, reaching 31,113 by Nov. 2, 2012, according toBailey's data.
The early voting count was close to the 31,692 who voted during six weeks of advance voting in 2008. That year, overall turnout wasnearly 80 percent in Richmond County and 77 percent in Columbia County.
Both elections officials reported Republican poll watchers making an appearance Friday, while Gay said a secretary of state's officeinvestigator had paid a call Thursday.