Voting groups in Georgia face new challenges to ‘get the vote out’

The runoff comes earlier as a new electoral law halves the time between a general election and a runoff.

CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia Senate runoff is next Tuesday and early voting is underway.

Either Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock or his Republican challenger Herschel Walker will take the seat. Warnock beat Walker in the primary, but neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

According to the Georgia State Department, more than 500,000 people voted early this Tuesday morning in Georgia. The preparations for the runoff election went faster this time due to the shortened time since the primary. This created new challenges for groups working to achieve the attunement.

“So far we’ve had nine weeks to do a runoff,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group. “It’s been four weeks now and it really came down to a week and a few days.”

The runoff comes earlier as a new electoral law halves the time between a general election and a runoff. This shortened the duration of early voting. For Butler, it means less time to get the vote out — again.

First Coastal News asked Michael Binder, faculty director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab, if he expects the same number of voters in the runoff as in the primary.

“Probably not,” Binder said. “People didn’t just go and vote for the Senate races. There were gubernatorial races, there were congressional races, there were local races up and down. So any number of issues could have brought people to the polls. You may not be here this time.”

However, where Butler is in Atlanta, she says a lot of people are going back to the polls. Lines were seen outside polling stations in several counties on Saturday.

“There were long lines, yes,” she said. “People were wrapped around the buildings to exercise their right to vote.”

Butler says her group received many calls from voters concerned their mail-in ballots weren’t arriving on time and from voters requesting rides to the elections that her group was arranging.

Though Democrats will retain a majority in the US Senate no matter what the outcome of the Georgia vote, Binder says who gets elected to the six-year term will have a big impact.

How many times have you heard West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s name mentioned in the last few years when something was held up in the Senate? Binder says if Warnock wins, Democrats will have an easier time.

“Having that 51/49 allows them to essentially think about their politics and care a lot less about Republican politics,” Binder said. “But also an organizational structure, now no democrat can stop the whole process. So Joe Manchin has gotten a lot of attention over the last two years. Suddenly you can do without him and not have to worry about the wishes and desires of every single senator.”

Find your early voting location and opening times here.