Once again, it’s a Georgia Senate runoff on our minds. As officials finish tallying votes, it’s evident neither Raphael Warnock nor Herschel Walker will pass the 50% threshold after Tuesday’s Senate election. This forces Georgia to its second consecutive Senate runoff vote.
With 99% of precincts accounted for, Warnock holds a slight lead over Walker, about 35,000 votes (just under one percent). Because of Georgia’s election laws, there will be a four-week runoff campaign before the election on Dec. 6th.
If elections in Nevada and Arizona go the way they’re projected, this means, yet again, a Georgia runoff will determine which party controls the Senate.
Which Side Does the Georgia Senate Runoff Benefit?
A runoff scenario likely hurts Democrats. Last year, the Georgia legislature passed laws shortening the runoff campaign timeframe from nine to four weeks. Additionally, the state legislature also passed laws restricting early voting access and new voter registration. Both of these measures weaken Democratic mobilization power and turnout.
The big question heading into the runoff is how each party will court those who voted for Chase Oliver, the Libertarian candidate. In runoff elections, only the top two candidates appear on the ballot, meaning there’s a crucial sliver of the pie up for grabs. Oliver collected about 2% of Georgia’s senate vote, leaving roughly 81,000 votes up for grabs.
Historically, Libertarians lean closer toward a Republican persuasion. However, as evident with Gary Johnson’s 2016 bid for the presidency, the Libertarian candidate poaches ballots from either party.
However, this year could be an outlier for the GOP, as exit polls show that, like in 2020, independent voters preferred Democratic nominees.
Another potential weakness for Georgia Republicans is that the ballot only features Senate candidates. Brian Kemp’s absence from the ballot, which Georgia Republicans voted for by a wider margin than Walker, may affect the Dec. 6th vote in a very real way. It was evident that many split-ticket voters were willing to tick boxes for Warnock and Kemp. So, a Walker-only event may yield less enthusiasm. It’s also important to keep in mind that many Trump-backed midterms candidates received far less support than projected.
History of Georgia Runoff Election Laws
Georgia and Louisiana are the only two American states with election laws requiring runoffs in the case that no candidate receives 50% of the vote. These runoffs, since being established in 1964, have been quite common in Georgia.
Historically, Republicans do well. The GOP candidate has won seven runoff elections since 1988, with three going Democrats. However, as evident with the 2021 Senate runoffs, the Democrats have forged a well-functioning mobilization strategy ready to turn out a vote that pushes Warnock over the edge for a second time.
What’s definite is that Georgia is set to be the stage of America’s next political mosh pit. Surrogated are already circling the state to appeal to the people of Georgia.
The spotlight will also land, no doubt, on the boxing match between Ron Desantis and Donald Trump and how they’ll wield their star power to influence Georgia’s Republican effort. In recent weeks growing tension between the two of the GOP’s prize elephants has thickened. How this may overshadow the Georgia runoff could concern GOP officials. There’s speculation over if party infighting between the GOP giants might distract rather an attract, turning away Republican voters from runoff engagement similar to how the election denial seemingly hurt Republican performance in 2021.
- Georgia’s 2022 midterm election results
- The history of Georgia runoff elections
- Georgia’s Libertarian voting bloc
- Who is Chase Oliver?