Georgia Senate runoff shatters records for early, absentee voting

Georgia continues to see record-breaking numbers of voters casting their ballots in the close Senate runoff race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

As of Monday morning, the Georgia Secretary of State's Office says that over 1.8 million voters has voted in the runoff. That's approximately 26.7% of the total active voters in the state.

In total, over 1.7 million people showed up at polling places to vote early - including nearly 188,000 in Fulton County alone.

People are seen in line to vote on the first day of early voting in Cobb County on Saturday, November 26, 2022 in Marietta, GA. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Out of the more than 237,000 absentee ballots requested, over 155,000 have already been returned - an increase of 83% compared to the previous midterm runoff record, said Gabriel Sterling, the COO for the Secretary of State's Office.

Official data shows that the majority of the early voters have been women with over 1 million votes compared to the men's more than 818,000. Over 1 million Georgians who are white and not of Hispanic origin have voted as well as nearly 600,000 Black voters. 

When it comes to age, the majority of votes have come from the range of 60 to 70-year-old voters. However, Zoomers have also showed up to the polls with over 86,000 votes counted so far. Three hundred and twenty-seven people have voted who are over the age of 100 years old.

What's at stake in the Georgia Senate runoff?

Fifty-four percent of Georgia midterm voters said they considered party control of the Senate to be the primary factor in their vote in the general election. But that’s no longer at stake.

Democrats flipped a Republican-held Senate seat in Pennsylvania to maintain their thin advantage in the chamber without relying on the outcome in Georgia.

In the general, many supporters of both candidates were motivated by party control, and they’ll need to be persuaded to vote a second time around when it doesn’t hang in the balance.

It’s a challenge for Walker in particular, whose supporters were slightly more likely than Warnock’s to say control of the Senate was their chief consideration, 57% vs. 52%. A Walker victory in the Senate would keep the 50-50 status quo, but Democrats maintain control with Vice President Kamala Harris ’ tie-breaking vote.

Republican support for Walker

Walker benefits from Georgia’s Republican-leaning tendencies, but Kemp didn’t carry Walker when they were both at the top of the ticket four weeks ago. In fact, Walker’s vote tallies fell more than 200,000 short of his fellow Republican’s, which might suggest he has a harder time getting Republicans out for him without Kemp on the ballot.

While 7 in 10 Kemp voters said they enthusiastically backed the governor, only about half of Walker’s voters said they were enthusiastically supporting Walker. Among Walker supporters, about 4 in 10 said they backed him with reservations and about 1 in 10 said they were simply opposing the other candidates.

"I’ve got some reservations, I’m not 100% Walker, but he is a hell of lot better than what we’ve got up there now with Warnock in there," said Donny Richardson, a retired Marine who voted for Walker last week in Marietta. "Things need to change."

Warnock has more work to do in a state that resoundingly reelected Kemp over two-time Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams and elected exclusively Republican statewide constitutional officers.

That’s especially true when Warnock may have been helped by Republicans who decided not to support Walker but showed up in the general to vote for other Republicans, including their governor. Fifteen percent of moderate and liberal Republicans backed Warnock. Eleven percent of Kemp voters supported Warnock or another candidate, including Libertarian Chase Oliver, compared with just 3% of Abrams voters bucking Warnock.

Candidate's constituencies

Warnock and Walker both amassed familiar Democratic and Republican constituencies in last month’s election. But there were signs that Walker did worse than his fellow Republican Kemp among groups that were core to the governor’s success, including white voters and voters in small towns and rural areas. College-educated men and women without a college degree were evenly divided in the Senate race, but both groups went decisively for Kemp in the governor’s race.

And most white Protestant voters backed the Republican candidate in both races, but Kemp won them by a wider margin than Walker did.

Warnock won majorities of young voters, Black voters, women, college graduates and suburbanites. Warnock also picked up about two-thirds of ideologically moderate voters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.