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Georgia Senate runoff smashes early voting records — and attracts new voters

More than 76,000 Georgians who didn't turn out in the general election have voted early in the Dec. 6 race between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, according to an analysis.

ATLANTA — Georgia has set new records for early voting again as the two Senate candidates blitz the state ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election. And the contest is drawing new voters, too.

More than 1.85 million Georgians have voted early, according to the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, breaking two single-day records in about a week.

Among those who have already turned out, 56% were women and 44% men. White voters made up 55% of early voters, 32% were Black, and Latinos and Asian Americans each accounted for less than 2% of the total.

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is facing Republican former football star Herschel Walker for a six-year term after neither reached the 50% needed to win on the first ballot in the Nov. 8 general election. With the balance of power in the Senate at stake, both candidates have been barnstorming the state to mobilize their voters in the final three days ahead of the crucial election.

Gabriel Sterling, a top aide to the secretary of state, said the early vote total is expected to top 1.9 million as absentee ballots arrive.

For now, the numbers show an edge for Warnock.

Democrats are outpacing Republicans among early in-person and mail votes by a heavy margin of 52% to 39%, according to data provided by TargetSmart.

Between his early voting leads, ad spending advantages and a new CNN poll indicating that he's leading Walker by a margin of 52% to 48%, Warnock is feeling confident.

“We are on the verge of victory. But I don’t want us to do the victory dance before we actually get into the end zone,” Warnock told labor allies at a rally here on Saturday. “We are seeing record voter turnout all across our state. People are showing up to vote.”

“I don’t want you to underestimate our opposition,” he added. “They are ruthless.”

Notably, more than 76,000 of early runoff voters did not vote in the 2022 general election, according to GeorgiaVotes.com, a site that uses public data to analyze voting trends.

Among Georgians under 30 years old, 15.5% of early runoff voters didn’t turn out for the general election. Additionally, 8.4% of Hispanics and 9.5% of Asian Americans who have shown up for the runoff didn’t vote in the Nov. 8 election.

All three constituencies lean Democratic overall. If their early vote preferences reflect the cohorts at large, it’s good news for Warnock.

A resident fills out paperwork before early voting at a polling station in Atlanta
A resident fills out paperwork before early voting at a polling station in Atlanta on Tuesday.Alex Wong / Getty Images

Democrats say some of their Georgia base sat out the November election because they assumed Warnock would easily win. Instead, he finished less than 1 point ahead and was forced into a runoff. As a result, some previous non-voters are turning out now.

“It’s only because they thought he was a shoo-in!” Linda Harris, a canvass worker for the Unite Here union, said at the Warnock rally on Saturday. “They thought no one’s gonna vote for Walker. That wasn’t true. So now we see that and I tell people: You’ve seen what happens. You have to vote.”

Still, there’s reason for Walker to be hopeful.

The early voting electorate skews older than it did in the general election, which could benefit Walker: 38% are 65 years and up — a group that the GOP candidate has an overall advantage with, according to polls. Another 32% of early voters are age 50 to 64, and 30% are younger than 50.

In the closing days of his campaign, Walker appeared Saturday on Fox News to complain about about media coverage of his run, and blamed Warnock and President Joe Biden for inflation and crime.

“Because of Joe Biden, we have these high gas prices. Walker said. “We have these high grocery prices. We have crime in the streets — Joe Biden and Raphael Warnock is a part of that. We have this open border. Men in women’s sports. And this has been done in less than two short years. I don’t know how many more years we can put up with it.”

Warnock, for his part, touted his support for the labor-backed PRO Act and for extending Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Georgians in the coverage gap. He called Walker “woefully unqualified, woefully unprepared” and “woefully unfit.”

“He’s running for Senate, he’s not just your uncle talking at the family reunion,” Warnock said. “Georgia deserves a senator who actually knows what he’s talking about.”

Early voting ended Friday and Election Day is on Dec. 6.