Georgia special election runoff early voting has soared by 150 percent as Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff entered the homestretch in what many see as a referendum on President Donald Trump.
Trump has had no personal visibility so far in Tuesday's runoff, either by design or because he's tied down with problems at the White House.
Handel and Ossoff are competing for Georgia's 6th Congressional District in three urban Atlanta counties left open when Tom Price left to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in Trump's administration.
Ossoff finished first in the usually reliable Republican district in April, but only received 48 percent of the vote, forcing the runoff Tuesday against Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State, who grabbed 20 percent all-party primary, reported NBC News.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that more than 140,300 people had cast ballots by the end of Friday's early-voting period, a total that includes both in-person early voters as well as returned absentee-by-mail ballots.
The total stunned poll watchers because it marked a 150 percent increase over the number of people who voted early ahead in the race on April 18.
"It is unprecedented for this type of election to see this voter turnout for early voting," Richard Barron, the director of registration and elections in Fulton County, told the Journal-Constitution.
Fulton County got more than 80,500 early ballots, while DeKalb saw about 25 percent of eligible voters turn out early, with more than 32,400 casted ballots cast. In Cobb County, 23 percent of eligible voters went to the polls early, a total of 27,381, noted the Journal-Constitution.
"I think we have so much anger in the country right now, I think early voters are here because they want their position heard," early voter Jeanne Slagel told WXIA-TV earlier this month.
Ossoff won the primary, but Handel had split the GOP vote with 10 other Republican candidates, something that will not be in play in the runoff, noted the Journal-Constitution.
"Handel and the GOP have focused on approximately 35,000 voters who cast GOP ballots in Georgia's 2016 presidential primary but did not vote on April 18," said Politico’s Scott Bland. "Democrats have fewer outstanding base votes to chase, with about 11,000 2016 presidential primary voters in the district who didn't cast ballots in April. Ossoff's campaign is also seeking support from thousands of newly registered voters and some independents who are not regular voters."
On Saturday, Handel campaigned with Price and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor. Vice President Mike Pence also was recently in town to help campaign for Handel.
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