More than 180,000 ballots cast in early voting in Georgia Senate runoff

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ATLANTA — On the first and only weekend of early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff, tens of thousands of voters cast their ballots in the election that pitted Democratic Senator Raphael G. Warnock against Republican challenger Herschel Walker — the final Senate contest of the 2022 midterms .

On Saturday, 70,050 Georgians turned out to vote, taking advantage of an extra day of early voting that resulted from a lawsuit filed by Warnock, the Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee and the state’s Democratic Party. Republicans tried to block the court effort, but were unsuccessful.

Among those who voted Saturday were Georgia residents, who told the Washington Post that busy schedules made voting during the week impossible. The lines also included college students who were home for the Thanksgiving holiday and preferred to vote in person rather than rely on a mail ballot.

Neither Warnock nor Walker garnered more than 50 percent of the vote on November 8, forcing the two to a December 6 runoff. Democrats have already regained majority control in the Senate after winning a GOP-held seat in Pennsylvania, but a Warnock win would give them 51 seats and an advantage on committees without a power-sharing agreement with Republicans would be required.

Another 86,937 people voted on Sunday. That number, along with voters in select counties who voted before Thanksgiving and the 15,305 absentee ballots accepted so far, means a total of 181,711 voters had cast their ballots through the weekend.

For comparison: In the last runoff election in Georgia in January 2021, more than 200,000 people had already submitted a postal vote on the first day of early voting. And more than 1.6 million had cast their ballots in the first week, underscoring Georgia’s diverse political environment and state of electoral laws, which were revised in 2021 with new restrictions on voting.

The stakes were higher in January 2021 when two runoff elections were on the ballot that would decide Senate control.

Early in-person voting has forced Georgians to queue for hours in many places to cast their ballots. Among them was Warnock, who was voting in Fulton County on Sunday afternoon. Lawmakers waited in line for almost an hour before voting for themselves. Early voting ends on Friday.

Warnock held several public campaign rallies over the weekend while his opponent had none. Walker will return to campaigning Monday after not holding any public events since Tuesday.

In the run-up to the election, a group of a dozen prominent faith leaders in the state urged black voters to cast ballots for Warnock, arguing that Walker, a businessman and former college football star, was unfit for the job.

“We believe that Herschel Walker belongs in the Football Hall of Fame, but absolutely nowhere near the United States Senate,” the faith leaders wrote in an “open letter to Georgia’s African-American community,” released Monday.

“DR. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Nothing in this world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’ – this quote clearly describes Mr. Walker, and we must not reward his “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” by calling him to the United States elect Senate,” the letter reads.

The faith leaders argue that Walker has both “character” flaws and “bizarre attitudes about critical issues” that would make him a subpar lawmaker.

“Though he may make Georgia white extremists, out-of-state politicians and his close friend Donald Trump happy as people of faith, our priorities and expectations when it comes to issues come from a higher calling,” the letter reads.

The Walker campaign had no immediate comment on the letter.

Warnock released a video of Walker’s speeches over the weekend, showing voters reacting in disbelief to the Republican’s comments about vampires, werewolves and “good air” from the United States, which among other things are supplanting “bad air” in China.

“Not only does it not make sense, I don’t even understand what he thinks he’s saying,” says one woman in the video.

The ad comes days after Georgia state officials were asked to investigate reports that Walker was receiving a tax break for his Texas home, which was intended only as a primary residence, despite competition to represent Georgia in the Senate.

Georgia resident Ann Gregory Roberts filed a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, arguing that Walker was not eligible to register as a voter in Georgia because his primary residence was in Texas. And that Walker broke the law by voting in Georgia.

CNN first reported last week that public records show Walker is on track to receive a Texas homestead tax exemption this year, which will earn him about $1,500 for a $3 million home in the suburbs of Dallas, which is listed as his primary residence.

Walker took advantage of the tax break for his Texas home in 2021 and 2022 even after he started his Senate bid in Georgia, an official with the Tarrant County Tax Advisors Office told CNN.

Walker, who was previously a pro football player for the Dallas Cowboys, lived in Texas for decades before registering to vote in Georgia in August 2021. He is known in Georgia for an eventful football career at the University of Georgia.

In a statement, Amanda Sherman-Baity, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee, said, “Every day, Herschel Walker’s dishonest and troubling behavior grows longer — and it is further proof that he has nothing to do with representing Georgians in the Senate.” . Georgia authorities should immediately heed the call to investigate Walker’s latest scandal, and Walker himself owes voters an explanation.”

Wagner reported from Washington. Eugene Scott in Washington contributed to this report.

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