Georgia’s Shorter Voting Window Could Cut Turnout In Senate Runoff

by | Nov 13, 2022 | Politics

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock’s first runoff in 2021 was a titanic nine-week clash to control the Senate that included three weeks of early in-person voting and lots of mail ballots.Warnock’s victory against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler – and Democrat Jon Ossoff’s tilt against Republican David Perdue – ended in two Democratic victories that gave the party control of a 50-50 Senate, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break ties.AdvertisementBut the Dec. 6 runoff won’t be for Senate control this time with Democrats retaining seats in Arizona and Nevada earlier this month. Successful reelection bids by Sens. Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto were what Democrats needed to keep the slimmest of margins in the chamber.Georgia requires a runoff if a candidate doesn’t win a majority in the party primary or in the general election. Neither Warnock nor Republican Herschel Walker got to 50%.Under Georgia’s 2021 election law, there will be only four weeks before the runoff — with Thanksgiving in the middle. Many Georgians will be offered only five weekdays of early in-person voting beginning Nov. 28. And June’s primary runoffs showed time for mail ballots to be received and returned can be very tight.Those changes could disadvantage Democrats, who tend to push early voting and vote-by-mail more than Republicans. Because the 2021 law makes it harder to apply for a mail ballot, Democrats urged supporters to vote early in person in October.AdvertisementDemocratic U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson said it will be challenging to reignite the kind of early voting enthusiasm that Democrats displayed ahead of the general election, when overall early voting set a new midterm record.“We’ve from Thanksgiving weekend to Tuesday, Dec. 6, to get these votes out, and there will be a lot of hard work over the holiday and the runup to the holiday season to make sure we get this vote out,” Johnson said. “I think voters are aware that our future is still in peril, and we can make a difference in Georgia for the sake of the nation. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”Stephen Lawson, who worked for Loeffler ahead of her 2021 defeat to Warnock, recalled that even with a two-month period between the 2020 general election and the second round “you had voters who weren’t aware of the runoff date and had to be reminded that it wasn’t over.” Lawson now leads the 34N22 political action committee backing Walker.The changes could produce lower turnout, and maybe a return to the old rules of Georgia runoffs before 2021, when Republicans had clear advantages.“Republicans do better in getting their voters back out for a runoff election,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a lobbyist who was chief of staff to Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and later nationa …

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