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Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, defeated his Republican challenger by 98,000 votes, according to preliminary counts..
"After a hard-fought campaign - or should I say campaigns - it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken," Warnock said in a victory speech to reporters. "A vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children. Voting is faith put into action and Georgia you have been praying with your lips and your legs, with your hands and your feet, your head and your hearts. You have put in the hard work and here we are standing together."
Walker conceded the race in a speech at 11 p.m.
Georgia Secretary of State officials said 1.3 million voters cast ballots on Election Day and overall turnout surpassed 3.4 million, topping expectations. Nearly 4 million Georgians voted in the Nov. 8 general election.
Runoff Election is Tuesday: How Georgia voters can cast their ballots for Warnock vs. Walker
What general election data tells us: Senate runoff between Warnock, Walker hinges on turnout
11:15 p.m. | Warnock eloquent, grateful in victory
Warnock delivered a heartfelt victory speech after winning re-election to the U.S. Senate.
“I want to say thank you from, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and to God be the glory -” he began, before pausing for a roar of approval from the crow. “- for the great things that God has done. And after a hard-fought campaign, or should I say campaigns, it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: the people have spoken.”
Warnock recounted his family history, recounting how his mother grew up picking cotton and his father supported the family hauling cars, and his own history growing up in Savannah.
“I am Georgia,” he said. “I am an example and an iteration of its history, of its pain and its promise, of the brutality and the possibility. But because this is America and because we always have a path to make our country greater against unspeakable odds, thank you Georgia.”
Warnock said that his victory was not evidence that voter suppression does not exist in Georgia, but that instead it was an indicator that voters had managed to overcome it. He highlighted several policy issues – lowering prescription drug prices, creating jobs, and working on criminal justice reform. And he thanked his staff and volunteers.
“After a hard fought campaign, you got me for six more years,” he said.
– Abraham Kenmore
11 p.m. | Walker concedes but makes 'no excuses'
Walker gave a short concession speech shortly after the race was called in favor of his opponent. Speaking at the College Football Hall of Fame, Walker told supporters to "stay together" going forward and said "there’s no excuses" in life.
"I’ve done a lot of stuff. The best thing I’ve ever done in my life is run for this Senate seat," Walker said. "The reason is I got to meet all of you and hear what you feel about this country. You can’t blame no one. Continue to believe in this country. And most of all, stay together."
Walker added: "I’m never going to stop fighting for Georgia. We are all winners. God is a good God. Continue to cast your vote."
10:35 p.m. | Mood darkens at Walker HQ as vote count nears end
As the vote count neared completion Tuesday night around 10 p.m., the crowd at Walker's watch party were on a rollercoaster of emotions.
The Fox News live count of the race on the projected screen at the front of the room fluctuated back and forth as the close race tilted to Walker, then back to Warnock.
Cheers erupt, then the crowd falls silent, a couple of times every 10 minutes or so.
But as the night wound down, and Warnock's lead extended to about 30,000 votes, the silence began to persist.
10:25 p.m. | Networks call race for Warnock
CNN and NBC both project victory for Warnock. He held a 30-vote advantage with 95% of precincts reporting.
9:30 p.m. | Warnock claims decisive edge in Augusta
County has finished counting its votes in the U.S. Senate runoff.
About quarter past nine the third largest city in the state finished the count, with Warnock winning 69.9% to 30.1%. In total, 59,778 voters cast ballots in the county. So far, Savannah, Athens, and Columbus all have results outstanding.
8:55 p.m. | Warnock canvasser travels far
Michael A. Guynn came a long way for Warnock’s election night gathering – all the way from Los Angeles.
“I’ve been out here since Sunday,” he said, campaigning in Gwinnett County for Warnock. “We’ve been going strong for three days.”
Guynn said he also helped campaign for Stacey Abrams in 2018. He heads back to California Wednesday, but wanted to make it out to the election night gathering first.
– Abraham Kenmore
8:50 p.m. | Country music star sets tone at Walker party
As Georgia-born country music artist Andy Velo, the opening musical act of the Walker watch party, was playing “Friends in Low Places” around 8:40 p.m. Tuesday night, the crowd erupted in applause.
But it wasn’t just for Velo. The crowd was watching the results, displayed on a giant screen playing Fox News behind Velo. Walker, who had been trailing Warnock from the start of the night, finally caught up in the close race.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s your hard work right there,” Velo said, as he began playing an original song.
The timbre of the room changed entirely. What before was a fairly reserved party became energized, as Walker supporters cheered together and hugged each other.
At that point, about 1.8 million ballots of 3.3 million total had been counted.
6:50 p.m. | Democratic strategist voices confidence in Warnock
Warnock’s campaign is confident as the polls are about to close, according to Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson, founder and CEO of Paramount Consulting Group. Speaking at the Warnock election night gathering, Johnson said that key precincts are trending the right way for the senator.
“Feeling really good about the turnout because our campaign has spent an enormous amount of time talking to all voters across the state of Georgia,” he said. “The early vote numbers were really good, and we’re proud of the Georgia voters that decided to go out and vote early.”
As for what is bringing voters back to the polls after the primary and general election earlier this year, Johnson said it is nothing less than democracy.
“We have a group of people on the Republican side who are focused on trying to move us backwards as a country,” he said. “And people in Georgia, they realize how important it is we send Sen. Warnock back to Washington.”
– Abraham Kenmore
6:45 p.m. | More voters than ballots on Wilmington Island
As the day wound to a close, both precincts on N. Cromwell Road on Wilmington Island were running out of paper.
Norma Canicotti, poll manager for precinct 4-07 at Wilmington Island Methodist church, said several printers ran out of paper at once. And it was during the post-work rush of voters. She said there was a line of about 20 people waiting to vote at one point.
“It was rotten,” she said.
They received more paper from the county, but no extra reems were left behind, leaving Canicotti to worry they’d run out again.
As of 6:15, precinct 4-07 had cast 1,087 ballots, more than double what the location typically sees during a runoff.
“We’ve had a pile of people come through here today,” Canicotti said.
6:15 p.m. | Warnock watch event prepped and ready
Supporters of Sen. Warnock are gathering at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, less than a mile from where Walker is gathering supporters.
A TV behind the Warnock campaign podium is already playing CNN coverage of the election, an hour before polls close. Dozens of journalists from local and national outlets are setting up, but doors will not open for supporters until 6:30 p.m.
USA Today’s Georgia reporters are on the scene and will be providing regular updates and photos throughout the night.
6 p.m. | Runoff turnout exhausts paper supply
As Georgia headed into its final hour of the run-off election Tuesday, precinct 4-08 at Wilmington Island Presbyterian Church saw more than 1,100 ballots cast, according to poll manager Ashley Reed.
During the primaries on Nov. 8, the same precinct saw 862 voters the entire day.
“I’ve never had turnout like this for a runoff,” the 27-year veteran of elections work said. “We’re running out of paper.”
Reed added that more paper was on its way, and the precinct experienced a few machine hiccups during the day, but nothing that kept people from voting.
The ballot scanner stopped working, and by the time they’d received a new one, Reed said she had to scan a backlog of 200 ballots into the machine. “But everybody got counted,” she said.
Reed said the shorter time for early voting is what drove people out to vote on Election Day this week, and the importance of the outcome— which would either clinch an already assured Democrat control of the Senate, or narrow the already thing margin of political control, should the Republicans succeed.
“The entire country hinges on this one,” she said of the election.
5:55 p.m. | Georgians 'make voices heard' in runoff
The vibe inside the Thunderbolt Senior Center — precinct 3-12 — was one of jubilance as the sun set Tuesday.
As Matthew North and Katharine Russell cast their ballots, the poll workers clapped and cheered. The couple were two of nearly 500 people who’d voted as of 5:30 p.m. — nearly one-third of the precinct’s registered voters.
“We haven’t beat (primary) elections number yet, but we might,” said poll manager Lydia Alva. “though, not by too much.”
North and Russell were part of widespread voter turnout in Georgia for the Senate runoff, which was the only race on the ballot. They said the high turnout was a signal to the rest of the country that Georgia cares.
“I think what's important is that it's going to show that Georgians… they (care) about the elections and they're gonna turnout and make their voice heard,” Russell said.
While “civic duty” is what pushed the couple to the polls, North said women’s reproductive rights were a big issue for them heading into the voting booth.
“(These issues) matter to us,” Russell said. “As someone who's had a miscarriage and almost needed a D&C (surgical removal of uterine lining after a miscarriage), it’s important.”
- Zoe Nicholson
5:50 p.m. | Media arrive at Walker Election Night watch party
The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta was bustling with journalists Tuesday around 5:30 p.m., as they took their places for Herschel Walker's watch party.
The former UGA standout's football legacy is enshrined there. Walker was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Walker's watch party is officially set to begin at 7 p.m., and campaign staffers said other guests of Walker should start to arrive around then.
- Will Peebles
5:30 p.m. | Runoff voter demographics come into focus
As of mid-afternoon, approximately 800,000 Georgians had visited polls on Election Day, according to a Georgia Secretary of State's office official. Before election day, Georgia had accepted about 175,000 absentee ballots and 1.7 million people had voted early in person – a total of 1.89 million ballots, or 27% of registered voters.
White voters had the highest number of votes among early voters, but Black voters had slightly higher early voting turnout at 29.5% - a full percentage point higher than white voters. About 10% of voters under 30 voted early, while 49.5% of registered voters 65 and above had already voted by election day.
– Abraham Kenmore
2:15 p.m. | Dept. of Justice monitoring Georgia runoff
The Justice Department will monitor polls in four Georgia counties Tuesday as voters cast their ballots in the Senate runoff election, the last remaining contest in the 2022 midterms.
Justice regularly dispatches monitors as a guard against voting rights violations. And on Tuesday, monitors from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. attorneys’ offices will be deployed to Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Macon-Bibb counties.
Complaints involving possible violations can be made on the department’s website or by telephone at 800-253-3931.
– Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
1:30 p.m. | Absentee ballot never arrived
Francine Scott requested a ballot on Nov. 28, more than a week ago, but never received it. Without a car or way to vote, Scott, a 79-year-old Savannah native, called a friend who was offering free rides to the polls so she could cast her ballot at her precinct at the W.W. Law Community Center.
“I'm a citizen of the United States of America. And I have a right to vote. And so whatever it took, I was going to vote,” Scott said.
Scott believes mail delays — which are plaguing communities nationwide as the US Postal reduces costs by relying mainly on ground travel — kept her ballot from arriving by Election Day.
Chatham County elections chief Billy Wooten said issues with mail-in ballots occur every year, and it’s not a widespread issue.
Due to delays with mail-in ballots in Cobb County, a federal court demanded election officers receive mail-in ballots until Dec. 9 — they must be posted by Dec. 6, though — to ensure all ballots are received for the final count.
1:30 p.m. | 'Incredible' turnout for a runoff at W.W. Law Center
When Kathleen Roberson Austin came out of the voting precinct at the W.W. Law Community Center, she waved her “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker in the air proudly, a smile on her face.
“It’s my first time,” she exclaimed.
The pastor has worked in Savannah for four years, but just recently made the permanent move from Virginia to the Peach State, meaning Tuesdays run-off was her first as a resident.
“This election is so important. This particular one, the runoff is just so important and so, I'm just so honored to be able to cast my vote and to let my voice be heard. And so it's really significant to me to cast this vote,” Roberson Austin said.
The pastor was one of more than 200 people who’d voted at precinct 2-03 by 1:30 p.m., an “incredible” turnout for a runoff, according to the poll manager.
10:33 a.m. | JEA records 255 votes by 10 a.m.; pace remains steady, peaceful
The scene at the Jewish Education Alliance in Abercorn Street — precinct 1-05 — was like most polling places across Chatham County: voters came to cast their ballots in an unrelenting yet peaceful tide.
By 10 a.m., 255 people had cast their votes at the JEA.
Chatham County Elections Chief Billy Wooten said it was smooth sailing as of 10:30 Tuesday morning — “All polls opened on time. Turnout is steady. No lines. Customary and usual equipment issues; no major problems,” he reported via text message to the Savannah Morning News. The “usual equipment issues” mean broken printers, or a voting machine down here and there.
Turnout at the JEA wasn’t as busy as Nov. 8, according to poll workers, but early voting flooded ballot boxes statewide — Wooten said roughly 10% of the county’s population (approximately 30,000 people) voted early at in-person precincts ahead of Tuesday.
10:27 a.m. | More than 400 votes cast at First Presbyterian this morning
When First Presbyterian Church opened its polling location, precinct 1-01, at 7am, there was a line wrapped around the building, according to poll manager Katherine Simmons.
While they cleared the line quickly, Simmons said the pace has kept up all morning. By 9:45 a.m., 410 people had cast their ballot at the location.
Simmons said the turnout was “exciting to see.”
“Seems kind of busier than Nov 8,” she said, referencing the primary election. “Because it seems like a lot of people didn’t get a chance to early vote.”
Voters who voted early in Chatham County reported wait times of an hour or more, but it took Josie Bustos less than five minutes to cast her ballot Tuesday morning.
She said the increased turnout doesn’t surprise her. “I think it's been happening in the state for a couple of years now, and it's just what we need,” Bustos said.
8:50 a.m. | Relaxed and steady at Morningside Baptist
It took reporter Zoe Nicholson less than five minutes to vote at precinct 2-07 — Morningside Baptist Church on East Gwinnett Street. She was the 163rd ballot, cast at 8:50 a.m. Tuesday morning. There was no line, but the precinct was never without voters during the 20 minutes she spent observing after voting. Poll workers were relaxed and congenial.
8:37 a.m. | Five minutes in and out at the Salvation Army
A steady stream of voters filed into the Salvation Army on Bee Road around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, but Johnny Simmons was in and out in about five minutes.
Simmons said the inundation of political ads on television, radio, email — virtually anywhere an advertisement can be delivered — did not impact his decision.
“I don't like to pay attention to it because it's a bunch of crap,” he said.
Although the national stakes of today's senate race hang heavy for some, Simmons said it’s the same story he’s been told since he began voting at precinct 2-09 in the 1980s.
“The emphasis is always there…” he said, adding that pre-voting polls seem to dominate conversations. “I don't know who they survey because I done been in this a long time and I never got surveyed.”
7:55 a.m. | Return of the bacon signs
The inflation disinformation election campaign returned Tuesday morning as signs reading "Bacon $10.99" co-mingled with the Warnock and Walker signs along Savannah area roadways. The message is a reference to inflation in the grocery store and a condemnation of the political party in power, the Democrats, and Warnock by extension.
A quick price check at Kroger revealed a pound of bacon for $4.49. The breakfast meat is even cheaper at Walmart, which advertises its "Great Value" brand for $3.58.
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This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Election Day in GA: Recap, results from US Senate race runoff