Early voting kicks off in Georgia's Senate runoff as legal challenges on access mount

November 23, 2022 3:45 pm

[Source: ABC News]

Early voting in Georgia’s Dec. 6 runoff kicked off Tuesday in at least one of the state’s 159 counties as Democrat-led legal efforts to expand the election’s early vote options have continued.

General election vote certification on Monday by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger allowed some voters to cast their ballots for Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock or Republican candidate Herschel Walker a few days ahead of schedule.

Early voting in the runoff election could not start until the results for the Nov. 8 general election were certified and the decision to allow early in-person voting happens at the county level. So far, only Douglas County in the greater Atlanta region was set to open polling locations Tuesday and Wednesday. Nearby DeKalb County will open up one polling location on Wednesday. Early voting must begin statewide on Nov. 28 and end on Dec. 2, although counties now have the option of offering some additional days this week.

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The vote certification and the launch of the runoff election comes after Georgia shattered all past early voting turnout numbers earlier this month. Warnock and Walker’s battle for the Senate seat was sent to a runoff when neither candidate received 50% of the state’s total vote.

“Our 2022 General Election was a tremendous success,” said Raffensperger after he certified the Nov. 8 votes. “Early certification reflects that success. Georgia has struck the balance between accessibility and security, and Georgia’s election administrators worked tirelessly to get the job done. We are so thankful for their work.”

Warnock won his seat in 2021 during a runoff election against former Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, during which time the balance of power in the Senate rested on his shoulders and those of his now-Democratic Senate colleague, then-Rep. Jon Ossoff, who was also fighting in overtime for his seat against former GOP Sen. David Perdue.

Turnout in that election was comparable to general election numbers. Warnock declared victory after securing the majority of 4,484,954 votes in the runoff election in 2021, while 4,914,361 ballots cast during the general election of 2020.

Georgia secretary of state spokesperson Robert Sinners told ABC News in a statement Tuesday that the office also anticipates “strong turnout” this election.

The faceoff between Warnock and Walker will not determine who controls the U.S. Senate, but Democrats have been holding their breath for a favorable outcome because a 51-seat majority would make wielding power much easier. Republicans have also put political pressure on winning the contest, pointing to successes they’ve been able to achieve in an evenly split Senate.

“When Herschel wins, we’re gonna have a 50/50 Senate. Alright? Now it’d be better if we were at 51, 52, 53 but by him winning, we will be able to block some bad legislation because it takes 51 plus to get this stuff done,” said Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., while stumping for Walker last week in Augusta.

The beginning of early voting comes amid widespread confusion about the process of Georgia early runoff voting.

A Georgia appeals court on Monday left in place a lower court order allowing counties to offer voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for the upcoming runoff election, which was brought up by Warnock’s campaign and other Democrats. On Tuesday, national and statewide Republicans filed an emergency petition in the Georgia Supreme Court to block Saturday voting.