5 Things To Look Out For In The Georgia Senate Runoff
For the second election in a row, the final makeup of the U.S. Senate comes down to a runoff election in Georgia, with sitting Senator Raphael Warnock — who was elected in the runoff in January 2021 — facing Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Although Democrats have already won a razor-thin majority in the Senate, this election will still have enormous impact for each party’s ability to pass or lock legislation in that chamber.
As Georgians go to the polls and wait for results today, here are five things to look out for.
Turnout from Both Parties
The 2022 election saw unusually high voter engagement, in contrast to other midterm elections that are usually less exciting than presidential year votes. However, Election Day turnout for the runoff faces several uncertainties. Democrats have already won control of the Senate, making this vote less of a make or break election that last year’s runoff. However, Democrats are also eager to reelect Sen. Warnock, as shown by record high early voting and significant fundraising advantages for the Democrat. For Walker, the fact that more popular Republicans, like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, are no longer on the ballot may hurt his chances if some Republican voters choose to stay home.
That being said, Walker clearly has a dedicated support base who will continue to back him regardless of all the controversies and gaffes of his campaign.
Signs of Election Interference
In recent months, various right-wing groups and extremist organizations have attempted to intimidate vulnerable populations, including voters, LGBTQ performers and more. The controversial New Black Panther Party has also indicated that it would send armed “security” to polling stations. Though such groups are not expected to show up at Georgia polling places, the possibility of such incidents remains.
Furthermore, the 2020 election was marred by attempts by then-President Donald Trump to reverse his loss in the state. He’s currently being investigated in Fulton County for possible criminal interference in the vote count. These efforts did not work, but they set a dangerous example for election interference.
The Trump Factor
Speaking of former President Trump, he has been surprisingly quiet about the Georgia runoff compared to his usual bluster. Nevertheless, despite Trump’s distance from Georgia, the former president’s unpopularity is still hanging heavily on Walker, a Trump supporter, as some Georgia Republicans who are turned off by Trump may skip this vote.
Though Trump has held back so far, there’s no guarantee that he will continue to do so. He may end up commenting on Election Day, either through his Truth Social account or his newly-restored Twitter profile. And given his obsession with spouting election conspiracies, the defeated former president will likely have something to say during or after the vote counting in Georgia.
Vote Counting Twists and Turns
Given the record-breaking early voting and general passion from voters on both sides of the aisle, it may take hours to tabulate the results once polls close on Tuesday evening. The partisan distribution of votes will also likely be an issue in determining which candidate has the lead as votes are counted. Ever since Trump and other Republicans began falsely questioning mail-in ballots and early voting, many Republicans have tended to avoid these options and wait to Election Day.
Therefore, the first set of ballots counted may lean towards the Republican Walker, while the early and mail-in ballots are expected to favor Warnock. Thus as numbers come in from early votes, small rural counties that favor Republicans and larger urban centers with more Democratic populations, the lead held by one of the other candidate may change or even flip throughout the night.
Another unfortunate trend started in 2020 has been the challenging of valid election results for baseless reasons. Trump himself did so in Georgia and other states, and some of his most hardcore followers have continued this practice. If Walker ends up losing the vote, it is possible that he may refuse to accept the results and may even seek to challenge the outcome.
There are also possibilities of a Warnock challenge if, for instance, there are examples of voter intimidation or technical problems that disproportionately impact Black voters. And if the election is simply close, a tight race might trigger a recount.
Overall, there are several possible scenarios that may stretch out the Georgia runoff beyond voting on Tuesday. Regardless of any of these situations, it is important that Georgians make their voices heard in this election.