Georgia Senate runoff heats up in early voting after record-breaking day

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Voters line up at Metropolitan Library to cast their ballots in the runoff election for the Senate position, between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 29, 2022. 

Megan Varner | Reuters

Georgia’s early-voter turnout is accelerating in the high-profile Senate runoff race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Trump-backed Republican Herschel Walker — even after voters already crushed the state’s in-person record for early voting the previous day.

“We are on a faster pace today than we were yesterday,” Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State, said in a tweet Tuesday.

“As of noon, we’ve had 118,130 Georgians cast an early vote today,” Sterling tweeted, adding, “Don’t know if it will stay that rapid.”

On Monday, Georgia tallied more than 300,000 ballots cast in person, easily topping the state’s previous one-day early voting record of about 233,000 votes cast, Sterling declared Monday night.

Monday’s haul brought the Peach State’s total turnout to nearly 504,000 votes, or 7.2% turnout from Georgia’s 7 million active voters, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The data show that more than 48% of early voters are white and about 38% are Black, and that Black voters are showing up to vote early at a higher turnout rate. The early voter turnout also appears to skew female, 55% to 44%, according to the state elections office.

That data, which was last updated early Tuesday morning, had yet to include the latest voting numbers from Sterling’s tweet.

The Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia was scheduled after neither Warnock nor Walker won more than 50% of the vote in the November general election. The election between the incumbent Democrat, who won his seat just one year earlier in another tight runoff election, and his GOP rival was one of the most competitive and expensive fights of the midterms.

Democrats have already locked up majority control of the Senate, meaning the outcome in Georgia will not sway the balance of power in the next Congress. Even if Walker wins, the chamber will be split 50-50, giving Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. But the race could have a major impact in 2024, where Senate Democrats are once again seen to be facing a tough electoral map.

Voters in Georgia showed up to polling places to cast their ballots Saturday, after the Warnock campaign won a state lawsuit to allow early voting that weekend. More than 157,000 votes were cast Saturday and Sunday, according to the state’s data.

Warnock urged his supporters to head to the polls over the weekend as he looks to defend his seat in the purple state, which President Joe Biden narrowly won over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Warnock and Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff won both of Georgia’s runoffs in that election cycle, delivering Democrats a narrow Senate majority that helped pass numerous pieces of Biden’s legislative agenda.

Polls have showed Warnock and Walker neck-and-neck before and after the Nov. 8 general election. Walker, a former football star, has been backed by Trump and boosted by a cadre of top Republicans who have defended him through a series of personal scandals.

Warnock heads toward the runoff with a significant campaign cash advantage: $29 million cash on hand to Walker’s $9.8 million, recent Federal Election Commission filings showed.

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