Georgians decide many races in the primary, including a surprising contest over abortion rights. • Georgia Recorder

A nationwide race for Supreme Court seats centered on abortion rights delivered a shock to an otherwise largely unremarkable primary.

Tuesday's primary election lacked the high-profile statewide contests that typically generate high interest, such as a race for governor. This year's primaries largely gave voters the opportunity to select candidates for state legislative and congressional primaries, local contests and a variety of nonpartisan judicial races across the state.

But a state Supreme Court candidate's late push to make the contested Supreme Court seat a referendum on abortion rights caught the attention of some voters.

John Barrow, a former Democratic congressional candidate, caused a stir when he said he believed the Georgia Constitution protected the right to abortion. Barrow is challenging Judge Andrew Pinson, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022.

A legal challenge to the state's 2019 abortion law has already reached the state Supreme Court and is likely to happen again at some point. But Barrow has defended his comments as reflecting his general view of the issue rather than a statement about how he would vote in a specific case.

Barrow failed on Tuesday, but his campaign offered one of the few tests of what Georgia voters think about the controversial 2019 law that bans most abortions after about six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant.

It's unclear how widely known it was that Barrow supported abortion rights, but several voters polled Tuesday were keenly aware of it.

“I don't like to use this term, but a group of old white men shouldn't decide my reproductive health,” said Nancy Dombrowsky of Villa Rica, who said she voted for Barrow.

Barrow's stance on abortion access also won over Jeff Evans of Coweta County.

“I think what's happened has gone way beyond what it was ever supposed to accomplish. And I think women should have that right,” Evans said. “Every time there's been an election in any state in the country where the issue has been up for debate, they've lost, so I hope that happens here too.”

That wasn't the case in Georgia, although the race was far closer than expected.

Barrow's comments were also off-putting to other voters.

“Judges don't write the law. They should interpret the law,” said William DeLoach, also of Coweta County. “That's the reason I voted that way, because Barrow has already said exactly how he's going to rule in certain situations, and that's not the way it should be done.”

Others said they were unfamiliar with the candidates or the issues in the state Supreme Court race.

A senior state elections official says he expects high voter turnout in November

When polls closed Tuesday evening, voter turnout exceeded the number of votes cast in the March presidential primary.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Tuesday's election went smoothly across the state, with the exception of a few minor issues. A total of 1.3 million voters, or 20% of registered voters, cast ballots in state and congressional primaries and local elections.

Billboard walkers stood outside a polling station in west Atlanta on Tuesday, trying to convince passing motorists to stop and vote. Jill Nolin/Georgia recorder

About 12% of Georgia voters cast ballots in the March 12 presidential primary, helping to solidify the nomination of Trump and Biden as the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

Raffensperger said his election investigation team visited nearly 400 precincts in 102 counties on Tuesday and found “everything to be in good shape.”

State election officials have predicted that six million Georgia residents will vote in the Nov. 5 general election, when the expected rematch between Biden and Trump is on the ballot

“We think this is a pretty good turnout for a primary, which means we're really expecting strong turnout in the fall,” Raffensperger said Tuesday night after the polls closed.

That of the Foreign Minister MyVoterPage crashed for about 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon after the system was unable to handle the volume of people trying to find out their polling location, registration status and other voting information.

Additionally, a polling place in Troup County was able to use battery power to keep electronic voting machines running Tuesday morning after a tractor trailer knocked over a utility pole.

Fair Fight, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, raised concerns about “extreme delays” in mail-in ballot delivery and technical glitches with the My Voter site. The group criticized the Secretary of State's office for failing to provide options and support to voters trying to navigate “a vastly different voting landscape than four years ago.”

Cobb County resident Elinor Spears described the time it took her to submit her Democratic Party ballot as “lightning fast.”

Issa Jackson, known professionally as DJ Kutt Throat, participated in the bipartisan DJ initiative Poll. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

She doesn't expect the same speed in November, when significantly more voters are expected.

“I will be patient if I have to wait a little longer (Nov. 5). There is too much at stake to worry about waiting in line for a few more minutes,” said the 72-year-old retired public school teacher.

Issa Jackson, known professionally as DJ Kutt Throat, was created at the CT Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center in west Atlanta as part of the nonpartisan DJs at the Polls initiative.

Jackson played upbeat music and occasionally spoke into a microphone, hoping to encourage more people to vote. Others waved to passing vehicles holding signs of individual candidates.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about what’s going on in your community,” Jackson said into the microphone.

Georgia Recorder reporters Ross Williams, Stanley Dunlap and Jill Nolin contributed to this report.

Anna Harden

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