Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s Democratic nominee for governor. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported: “Voters across Georgia rushed to the polls on the first day of in-person early voting Monday, with 69,049 people casting their ballots. That’s a sharp increase from the last midterm election in 2014, when 20,898 people showed up on the first day of in-person early voting.” Moreover, “When mailed-in ballots are added to in-person early votes, a total of 129,458 Georgians had already voted through Monday in advance of the Nov. 6 general election, which features the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.”

The early voting period opens on the heels of Abrams’s denunciation of Kemp’s implementation of “exact match” voter registration, which has delayed processing of more than 53,000 applications. Abrams began her statewide bus tour Monday exhorting her supporters to turn out en masse, as The Post reported. (“I need all of you to find 53,000 additional votes just in case,” she said. “This election is about history. We are talking about our voices and our votes because this is our time.”)

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to enjoin Kemp from using the exact-match system, which prevents processing of applications because of minor discrepancies. “At issue is a state law that allows election officials — who have no handwriting-analysis expertise — to reject an absentee ballot if they think there is a signature mismatch in the voter’s paperwork, without giving prior notice to the voter or an opportunity to contest that determination,” the ACLU explained in a news release. “The ACLU is seeking a temporary restraining order requiring election officials to provide absentee voters the opportunity to confirm their identity or otherwise resolve the alleged discrepancy. The lawsuit notes that a voter’s signature could vary for a variety of reasons, both intentional and unintentional.” Sophia Lin Lakin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a written statement: “People should not be denied their right to vote because of penmanship, but that’s exactly what is happening in Georgia. With an election on the horizon, we should be protecting voters, not denying them the opportunity to ensure their vote is counted.”

(In addition, a separate lawsuit filed by Coalition for Good Governance is challenging the high rate of rejection of absentee ballots from Gwinnett County, which has a substantial percentage of nonwhite voters.)

How much of the heavy early voting turnout is related to the voting issue, how much is related to Abrams’s historic campaign (she’d be the first female Georgia governor and the country’s first African American female governor) and how much is attributable to the pink wave of newly engaged women voters may be hard to assess.

Abrams is also trying to do what Democrats at the national level have been talking about for years — connecting the economic interests of rural whites and urban nonwhites. Abrams is doing that by making Medicaid expansion a key issue, a move championed by other Democrats running for governor in Florida, Kansas and Maine.

CNBC reports:

In an interview with CNBC, Abrams said Medicaid expansion is not a partisan issue. “Governors from all across the political spectrum have expanded Medicaid — from Mike Pence in Indiana to West Virginia and Kentucky — and Georgia can do the same,” she said. Kemp has dismissed Medicaid as a failed government program with high costs for the state . . .

Abrams, who would be the country’s first black female governor if she wins, has talked of bringing more medical care to rural Georgia through a government program for low-income people. She also recently released a six-page platform that calls for Medicaid expansion with more services for seniors and the disabled, medical apprenticeships and doctor relocation.

Abrams is relying on mobilization of voters who might not otherwise come to the polls. (“From the outset, Abrams has targeted her message, the mechanics of her campaign and much of her nearly $17 million fundraising haul on the larger group of irregular voters,” the Associated Press reported. “The approach doesn’t exclude newly registered voters, but doesn’t necessarily depend on them. That positions her to withstand a voter registration controversy facing the state. Kemp, who is currently secretary of state and oversees elections, is under fire for having 53,000 new voter registration applications on hold in his office, most of them from black would-be voters who could benefit Abrams.”)

That requires an emotionally compelling message in the final weeks of the campaign, exemplified in her latest campaign ad:

If she pulls this off, she’ll be an instant star in the party, and may reorient how Democrats think about their 2020 campaigns.

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