The Georgia senate runoff is here. With early voting already underway, voters head to the polls today in the Peach State to determine the winner of Warnock vs. Walker once and for all.
The South's newest swing state, Georgia saw a fiercely fought campaign for Senate this midterm season. Incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock faced off against Republican challenger Herschel Walker, a former football star at the University of Georgia in one of the most closely watched races across the country.
Warnock won his seat in 2020 through a runoff election, helping Democrats secure control of the upper chamber. Sen. Warnock now faces a tough Republican opponent in Walker in a key contest that could determine how big of a majority Democrats will be able to wield in the Senate.
After the Nov. 8th midterm elections, it still remained unclear who would take the seat, with Warnock showing less than a one-point lead over Walker, and neither candidate in possession of over 50% of the vote. Since neither candidate snagged over half the vote, the race has moved to a runoff election, the second one the state has seen in four years.
Georgia runoff live updates: Nearly 2 million have already voted
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What is a runoff election?
A runoff election is a political tiebreaker, a second contest held when no candidate wins the required majority of votes in the general election.
In Georgia, if no candidate secures over 50% of the vote on Nov. 8, the two candidates with the most votes move to a runoff election.
Early voting 2022 schedule: When early and in-person absentee voting starts in each state
When is the Georgia runoff election?
Early voting for a runoff in Georgia begins the 4th Monday before the actual election date.
If a runoff is needed to determine the winning candidate, it is held four weeks after the general election, meaning this year it would fall on Dec. 6, 2022. Under that scenario, early voting would start Nov. 14, just one week after the original election.
Prior to this year, a runoff for federal offices was held nine weeks after the general election. However, a new bill the Georgia legislature passed in 2021 shortened that period to four weeks.
Who can vote in a runoff?
In Georgia, anyone who is registered to vote is eligible to cast their ballot in runoff elections at the local, state, and federal level.
Why does the runoff matter?
During the midterms, Georgia formed a key part of both major political parties' strategy to win control of the Senate. However, the Democrats have since Clinched a majority with win in important swing states like Arizona and Pennsylvania.
That does not mean that this seat is unimportant though.
The senate currently sits at a 50-50 divide, with Democrats in charge by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris' ability to cast tie-breaking votes in her role as president of the Senate.
In gaining another seat and bumping that majority to 51, Senate Democrats won't have to lean so heavily on Harris' vote and will have control of committees. If Walker is successful in unseating Warnock, however, pressure mounts on Democrats to stay united and moderate or conservative-leaning senators like Sen. Joe Manchin D-WV, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema D-AZ, gain more power when it comes to judicial nominations or other administrative confirmations.
Know your rights: A breakdown of voting rights, state by state
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why is there a runoff election in Georgia? Understand today's contest