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.


              Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Sen. Raphael Warnock claps before a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Warnock is running against Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
            
              Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Warnock is running against Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
            
              Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Sen. Raphael Warnock leaves after a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Warnock is running against Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
            
              Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Sen. Raphael Warnock arrives to speak during a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Warnock is running against Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
            
              A supporter of Republican nominee for U.S Senate Herschel Walker leaves a campaign rally on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Canton, Ga.. Walker is in a runoff with incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
            
              Republican nominee for U.S Senate Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Canton, Ga.. Walker is in a runoff with incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
            
              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)
            Republican nominee for U.S Senate Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Canton, Ga.. Walker is in a runoff with incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

AP

FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans...
Associated Press

Flu season worsens as 44 states report high activity

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. flu season keeps getting worse. Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since. The annual winter flu season usually doesn’t get going until […]
20 hours ago
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin introduces the B-21 Raider stealth at Northrop Grumman Friday, De...
Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Family says coyote attacked toddler outside LA home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A coyote ambushed and injured a 2-year old girl outside her Los Angeles home in a daytime attack before her father chased the animal off, her family said. Home security video obtained by KTLA-TV shows the animal grab and drag the toddler across her lawn and sidewalk, just seconds after her […]
20 hours ago
FILE -  Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz, speaks during a press conference at the American University of Beir...
Associated Press

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

PHOENIX (AP) — Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday. Kolbe served in […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Fan buying famed ‘Goonies’ house in Oregon, listed for $1.7M

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — The listing agent for the Victorian home featured in the “The Goonies” film in Astoria, Oregon, said this week the likely new owner is a fan of the classic coming-of-age movie about friendships and treasure hunting, and he promises to preserve and protect the landmark. The 1896 home with sweeping views […]
20 hours ago
New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna is sworn in by the Honorable Samantha Jersey, Presiding ...
Associated Press

New LA sheriff vows accountability, integrity for department

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The new head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department vowed Saturday to usher in an era of integrity and collaboration after his predecessor’s tenure was marked by clashes with other public officials and allegations that ganglike groups of deputies ran amok within the agency. Robert Luna took an oath of office […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Shorter voting window could cut turnout in Georgia runoff