Shorter voting window could cut turnout in Georgia runoff

Nov 13, 2022, 9:06 AM | Updated: 9:54 am

Republican nominee for U.S Senate Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally Thursday, Nov. 10,...

Republican nominee for U.S Senate Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Canton, Ga.. Walker is in a runoff with incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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.

But 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.

Democratic 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 national finance co-chair for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

No one who wasn’t on the rolls before Nov. 8 can register to vote now. The last day to register was Nov. 7.

Georgia’s 159 counties can open early voting sooner than Nov. 28 if they are able. But they can’t begin until the state certifies the general election, currently targeted for Nov. 21, said Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling.

But only 10 counties offered more than the mandated five days during June primary runoffs, the first statewide elections held with the shortened runoff period. Moreover, state law bars early in-person voting on a state holiday or the Saturday after a state holiday. Because both Thanksgiving and the following Friday are state holidays, there will be no Saturday voting offered before the runoff.

Some urban counties are likely to offer early in-person voting on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and the most ambitious counties might also offer voting on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, if the race is certified Nov. 21.

Mail ballots can be requested now through Nov. 28. About 150,000 people who voted by mail in the November election will automatically be mailed a ballot for the runoff. But Associated Press reporting found some counties were slow to mail ballots before the primary runoff, raising questions about whether voters could receive and return them in time.

Republicans say the four-week runoff is workable, noting it was law in Georgia before 2013. A federal judge found then that military and overseas voters didn’t have enough time to return mail ballots, ordering nine weeks instead. Lawmakers in 2021 solved that problem by adding ranked-choice ballots for overseas voters, letting them pick additional candidates in the event of a runoff.

“The counties are prepared already. They know we’re going to have this period of time,” Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters Wednesday.

Opponents of Georgia’s voting law say changes to mail voting hurt voters, disputing Republican claims that high turnout proves the law didn’t hurt anyone.

“We know that our community members did not have fair and equitable access to voting by mail,” Aisha Mahmood, executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund said during an online news conference on Wednesday.

Liberal groups vow they won’t be outworked. Most don’t endorse candidates but push progressive policies broadly in line with Democrats, and are a key cog in the Democratic turnout machine.

“The way that we won in 2021, you’re seeing it happen again right now,” said Hillary Holley of Care in Action, which advocates for domestic workers. “And so yes, is this runoff shorter? Absolutely. And do we need everyone to start making a plan to vote right now? Absolutely.”


Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court has h...

Associated Press

Supreme Court decision on Trump’s election status could come Monday morning

A SCOTUS decision could come Monday in the case about whether Trump can be kicked off the ballot over his efforts to undo his 2020 defeat.

13 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley poses for a selfie after speakin...

Associated Press

Nikki Haley wins D.C. Republican primary, her first 2024 victory

Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary in the District of Columbia, notching her first victory of the 2024 campaign.

14 hours ago

An Apache group that has fought to protect land it considers sacred from a copper mining project in...

Associated Press

A US appeals court ruling could allow mine development in central Arizona on land sacred to Apaches

An Apache group that has fought to protect land from a copper mining project in central Arizona suffered a significant blow.

19 hours ago

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yogurt sold in the U.S. can ma...

Associated Press

Eating yogurt may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, FDA says

Eating at least two cups of yogurt a week might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

21 hours ago

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

3 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Shorter voting window could cut turnout in Georgia runoff