Early voting began Saturday for some Georgia counties ahead of next month’s hotly contested runoff between Senator Raphael Warnock and his Trump-backed challenger Herschel Walker.
Georgia law requires candidates to win at least 50 percent of the vote to win an election, and neither Warnock nor Walker did so during the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Warnock, a Democrat, gained about 49.4 percentage points while Walker, a Republican, won about 48.5 percent of the vote, with libertarian Chase Oliver winning the remaining votes.
Now Warnock and Walker face off in a head-to-head match in a runoff, to be contested between the two candidates who received the highest percentage of the vote.
Georgia’s general election is due on December 6, but early voting began in some counties on Saturday as both men work to persuade their base to secure a victory for their party while facing the threat of reduced turnout are.
Several counties are allowing voters to vote over the weekend after the Georgia Supreme Court issued an order last week. Several of these counties are located near Atlanta. The capital’s booming population growth, along with its Democratic-trending suburbs, has resulted in the transformation of the once-reliable republican state into a competitive territory.
Counties in the Atlanta area open to voting Saturday include Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties, according to Vote411.
Chatham County, home of Savannah, and Muscogee County, home of Columbus, also allow early voting. According to Vote411, several smaller counties also allow residents to vote on Saturday, including Bibb, Burke, Clark, Crawford, Mitchell, Randolph, Screven, Terrell, Troup, Walton and Ware counties.
Cherokee, Clayton, Floyd, Lowndes and Richmond counties will allow early voting on Sunday, while the rest of the state can begin voting Monday.
Jeffrey Lazarus, a professor of political science at Georgia State University, said news week on Saturday that the composition of districts allowing early voting skews Democrats, meaning Warnock could win a few thousand votes this weekend.
According to Lazarus, a day or two of early voting is unlikely to give either candidate a significant advantage as the election approaches.
“If you look at millions of voters across the state, one day of early voting probably isn’t going to make much of a difference,” he said. “For people in counties who don’t have early voting on Saturday, they will find another day to go out and vote sometime over the next week.”
Democrats typically benefit from early voting
During the last election, Democrats have typically been more prone to early voting than Republicans, as GOP leaders have urged them to delay casting their ballots until Election Day, citing poll security concerns. Georgia is no exception to this national trend, Lazarus said.
He added that he wasn’t surprised that so many rural, Republican-leaning counties didn’t allow residents the extra two days of extra voting. He explained that early voting benefited formerly Republican-leaning constituencies, including military voters in the country and overseas.
The bias in early voting comes as former President Donald Trump “saw COVID as an opportunity to drive a wedge between Democrats and Republicans over mail-in voting,” Lazarus said, adding that voters in larger cities wanted mail-in voting, in order not to stand in long lines at the peak of the pandemic.
That’s what polls say about the runoff
With less than two weeks until the Georgia runoff, polls on the race remain sparse, though the election was seen as one of the most important Senate picks of the 2022 midterms.
An AARP poll released on Tuesday gave Warnock a modest lead, supporting 51 percent of respondents compared to Walker’s 47 percent. Another 2 percent remained undecided. The survey was conducted on behalf of AARP by Fabrizio Ward & Impact Research. It polled 500 likely voters nationwide Nov. 11-17. It has an error rate of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Democrats hope a Warnock win could shore up their Senate majority through 2024 — when they have to defend Senate seats in GOP-heavy states like Montana, Ohio and West Virginia. Democrats won a majority earlier this month, winning contests in Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping a Walker win could give them a boost after a disappointing half. Despite President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, Republicans failed to win a Senate majority and narrowly won control of the House of Representatives.
https://www.newsweek.com/early-voting-begins-some-georgia-counties-key-senate-seat-1762489 Early voting for a key Senate seat begins in some Georgia counties