Georgia: What to Expect on Election Night

A hard-fought Georgia Senate runoff is having national ramifications as Democrats seek to consolidate their grip on the upper house of Congress. Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is attempting to win a full Senate term against Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock received over 37,000 more votes than Walker in the November 8 election, out of almost 4 million votes counted. However, Warnock just missed a majority and needed Tuesday’s runoff.

Warnock was first elected to the Senate in a runoff in January 2021 – two months after the 2020 general election. Unlike 2020, this year’s Georgia runoff will not decide which party controls the Senate. Democrats already have a 50-49 seat advantage, giving them control of the chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris able to sever ties.

Another big change from 2020 is the compressed schedule, as this year’s runoff will take place just four weeks after the general elections in Georgia thanks to the new electoral law in Georgia. The 2020 runoff was two months after the federal election.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

ELECTION DAY

Polling stations close at 7:00 p.m. ET.

HOW GEORGIA VOTES

Voters in Georgia can vote in three ways: by mail, in person during early voting, and in person on election day. Postal voting records can be requested by any registered voter in Georgia without having to give an excuse. Completed domestic ballot papers must be received by the district electoral offices by election day in order to be counted. Early in-person voting runs through Friday.

The state Supreme Court allowed counties to hold early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, dismissing arguments by state and republican groups that Georgia’s electoral law does not allow early in-person voting on a Saturday if the preceding Thursday or Friday is a holiday.

The court agreed with Warnock’s campaign and Democratic groups, who said the ban only applied to primary and general elections, not runoffs.

DECISION NOTES

The AP makes no predictions and will only declare a winner if it is determined that there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap.

Should a candidate declare victory or offer a concession before the AP calls a race, we will update our coverage with updates. In doing so, we make it clear that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

The AP can call a race where the gap between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less when we determine the margin is too great to change the result by recounting. In Georgia, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is 0.5% or less.

Q: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THE GENERAL ELECTIONS?

A: Warnock ended the election on November 8 with 49.4% of the vote, compared to 48.5% for Walker. Warnock beat Walker by 10 percentage points in pre-Election Day votes, both by mail and in person. Walker won the Election Day vote by 15 percentage points, but only 36% of voters cast their ballots on Nov. 8.

The proportion of voters casting their ballots before Election Day will almost certainly be lower in the runoff, as the new law shortens the time between the general election and the runoff.

Q: WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE THE 2020 PANDEMIC ELECTION?

A: Georgia Republicans pushed through sweeping new election law in 2021 that makes voting by mail more difficult and has prompted Democrats to urge people to vote early at polling stations instead. The state has also scaled back its pandemic-inspired drop boxes, limiting counties to smaller numbers and requiring them to be available only in buildings during business hours.

The state has also reduced the use of temporary ballots for people who turn up at the wrong polling station and increased the ability to challenge voter qualifications.

Q: WHAT ARE THE PARTICIPATION AND PRE-VOTING LIKE?

A: Georgia has more than 7.8 million registered voters. As of Dec. 2, more than 1.4 million people had cast their ballots by mail or in person, far fewer than the 2.3 million people who cast ballots six days before the Nov. 8 election.

Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING TAKE USUALLY?

A: For the November 8 parliamentary elections, Georgia counted 99% of the votes by 2 a.m. the day after the election. Almost all of the votes were counted by midday on Wednesday.

Q: WHAT ARE THE EARLY RETURN ERRORS?

A: Democratic votes are concentrated in the state’s major urban areas, particularly in and around Atlanta. These counties are also the most populous in the state, and vote counts tend to take longer to count than smaller rural counties across the state that are Republican-dominated.

In the November 8 election, many counties released preliminary ballot results first, giving Warnock an early 14-point lead. As more votes were counted in rural areas of the state on Election Day, Warnock’s lead evaporated and Walker took a 1-point lead around 10 p.m. ET. Warnock regained the lead a few hours later as more votes from Atlanta and the surrounding area were tallied.

FIND OUT ABOUT THE RACES

Here is more about the campaigns in Georgia:

– Obama urges Georgia Democrats to push turnout for Warnock

– Ga. Senate runoff between Warnock and Walker has a bitter end

— Doubts about candidates tipped the scales in the closest races

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Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

Follow AP’s coverage of the election at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

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