More than a quarter million African American voters in Georgia have already cast ballots for the November elections, the highest participation rate ever recorded by the secretary of state’s office.

According to state elections officials, 780,545 Georgians, of which 33 percent were black, had already voted in the presidential contest as of Friday.

Should the preliminary rate of participation remain steady through the close of polling on November 6, this year’s election will be recorded as the single largest black voter turn out event in state history.

African American participation rose to historic highs in 2008, when Barack Obama first appeared on a national ticket, but still only represented 30 percent of the full electorate.

The surge in black participation comes even as the overall rate of early voting has fallen below 2008 levels–by the time early voting ended in that race, a full 2 million voters had already cast their ballots–and in spite of concern by civil rights groups that the state’s voter identification law could disenfranchise black voters.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis warned as many as 73,000 black Georgians under age 30 may be barred from the ballot box next month because of the state’s 2007 law requiring voters present a government-issued identification for their vote to count.

Similarly dire predictions have been made in the years since Georgia first implemented the law, then one the nation’s first, but the state’s new participation data might dull the political argument against the measure.

– James Richardson

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