Early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff began Saturday after a court ruling by the state’s highest court to determine whether Democrats can expand their majority in the upper chamber.
A senior Georgia election official, Gabriel Sterling, wrote that 69,297 people voted between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and GOP candidate Herschel Walker on Saturday, the first day of early voting for the Dec. 6 election. Sterling, who was criticized after the 2020 election for his claims added that on the second day of the turnout 100,000 will be exceeded.
“We’re going to break a cumulative 6 numbers on the vote today and we’ve probably already done that,” he wrote on social media on Sunday.
Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of Democrats and Warnock allowing early voting to begin on Saturday. Officials in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office had attempted to introduce a rule to prevent an early vote on Saturday, which comes after a state holiday on Friday and Thanksgiving.
The runoff was triggered after the first ballot on Nov. 8 in which neither Walker, a former NFL running back, nor Warnock received more than 50 percent of the vote. Warnock was ahead of Walker during the November 8 contest by about 37,000 votes out of 4 million.
Libertarian Party candidate Chase Oliver received about 2 percent of the vote — about 81,000 votes — and was a distant No. 3 behind Warnock and Walker. In the runoff on December 6, Oliver will not be there.
Neither President Joe Biden nor former President Donald Trump chose to campaign for Warnock and Walker, respectively, in Georgia before the runoff. However, it was announced that former President Barack Obama would campaign in Warnock’s favour, while several top Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), have attended events, to empower walkers.
Reports at the Federal Election Commission earlier this month show that Warnock reportedly has significantly more campaign money than Warnock. As of Nov. 16, Warnock had $29 million available while Walker had about $10 million, filings show.
Regardless of next month’s outcome, Democrats will still have a majority in the Senate, having gained 50 seats after GOP nominee Adam Laxalt defeated Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) in the Nov. 15 race for the Senate seat granted by Nevada. All Democrats need is 50 seats because Vice President Kamala Harris can serve as a tie-breaker.
The stakes are still high as a Warnock win would give the Democrats an outright majority and give the party a majority on committees. This would, in part, allow them to advance President Joe Biden’s justice nominees more quickly.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday that the GOP has “a second chance in Georgia to get it right,” adding, “50 is better than 49, and we will.” give everything we can. have.”
A Warnock win would mean Democrats could lose the support of a member of the group and still win votes. However, the party will continue to struggle with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
During this election cycle, Republicans retained 21 Senate seats compared to 15 for Democrats. And in the 2024 election, Democrats will hold 21 seats against Republicans’ 10.
Two of these seats are in the Republican states of West Virginia, Montana and Ohio. Another five are in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and Arizona, all of which will be in play during the presidential election. Given the chamber’s narrow chasm, the Georgia seat could be a necessary bulwark.
Both candidates have campaigned extensively across the Peach State since the end of the midterms. Walker ran an ad criticizing Warnock for voting against an amendment that would prevent biological males from competing in women’s sports.
“Warnock is afraid to advocate for women athletes,” Walker said in the ad, along with Riley Gaines, a swimmer who competed against biologically male swimmer Lia Thomas.
Last week, Warnock said Walker was not qualified to be a senator.
“That brother could blind you on this football field,” the Democratic senator admitted, referring to Walker. “But tonight we’re in a different field,” Warnock told a crowd in Wrightsville. “And the people of Georgia need a true champion.”
The Georgia Supreme Court issued a unanimous, one-sentence ruling (pdf) on Nov. 23 to uphold a lower court decision that blocked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s order for counties to vote on Saturday, Nov. 26 to disallow. The court did not comment on the reasons for its decision.
The Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican National Committee petitioned the state Supreme Court, asking it to stay the lower court’s decision in an emergency. Early in-person voting ends December 2, or about four days before the runoff.
Warnock was elected to the Senate in early 2021 to fill the remaining two years of former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)’s term after he resigned in late 2019 due to ill health.
Reuters contributed to this report.