ATLANTA - A larger, more diverse Georgia electorate will be eligible to vote in next month's general election than any in the state's history.
Monday was the registration deadline in Georgia to be able to vote Nov. 4. And while the final numbers aren't in yet, it's clear that state voter registration rolls have swelled.
As of Oct. 1, more than 406,000 new voters have been added this year alone, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office. That's a 9 percent jump from the same period leading up to the last presidential contest in 2004.
Registered voters in Bulloch County have increased by about 20 percent since the 2004 presidential election. Probate Court Judge Lee DeLoach, who also is in charge of voting in Bulloch, said there were 31,499 active and inactive registered voters in November 2004.
"As of October 1 of this year, we had 37,295 active and inactive registered voters, DeLoach said. "When we add the last stacks of registrations, I estimate we'll have about 38,000 on the rolls for this year's election."
This year's tally doesn't include the final, frenzied push in October. Volunteers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have been pounding the pavement trying to reach every last unregistered voter.
Officials with the Secretary of State's office said it could be several days before the final tally for registered voters is available. Elections staff are waiting for registrations with valid postmarks to trickle in by mail.
The ranks of active voters in Georgia has grown by more than 850,000 since the last presidential election in 2005. There are currently 5.6 million registered voters in Georgia.
Some of the most significant growth has been among minority voters. While whites still make up the majority of the state's registered voters their influence is gradually slipping.
Today, whites make up 63.5 percent of the state's electorate. That's down from 68.1 percent four years ago. In 2004, blacks made up 27.7 percent of the electorate and now that has inched upward to 29.2 percent.
The could be good news for Democrat Barack Obama, who's drawing strong support from minority voters in his bid to become the nation's first black president.
But University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock cautioned that newly-registered voters have traditionally been less likely to return to vote.
Republicans have held the reins in power in Georgia since 2002 and have predicted a win for GOP presidential candidate John McCain.
Still, Bullock said the the rise in minority voters poses a long-term challenge to Georgia's ruling Republicans. To stay in power, Bullock said, the GOP needs to either expand their support among white voters or make inroads among the state's growing minority populations.