Alice Barrett has logged in at 2023-12-28 16:28:23
Alice Barrett has logged in at 2023-12-28 16:28:23

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock’s first runoff election of 2021 was a titanic nine-week clash for control of the Senate that included three weeks early of in-person voting and many mail-in ballots.

Warnock’s victory over Republican Senator 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 breaking connections.

But the Dec. 6 runoff won’t be under Senate control this time, as Democrats retain seats in Arizona and Nevada earlier this month. Successful reelection bids from Sens. Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto were what Democrats needed to keep the tightest margins in the chamber.

Georgia requires a run-off election if a candidate fails to win a majority in the party’s primary or general election. Neither Warnock nor Republican Herschel Walker got 50%.

According to Georgia’s 2021 election law, there are just four weeks until the runoff – with Thanksgiving in the middle. Many Georgians will only be offered early in-person voting on five days of the week starting November 28. And the runoff elections in June showed that the time to receive and return absentee ballots can be very tight.

These changes could penalize Democrats, who tend to push past votes and vote-by-mail more than Republicans. Because the 2021 law makes it harder to request a mail-in ballot, Democrats urged supporters to vote in person early in October.

Democratic US Rep. Hank Johnson said it will be a challenge to rekindle the kind of enthusiasm for early voting Democrats showed ahead of the general election, when early voting overall set a new mid-term record.

“We have from Thanksgiving weekend through Tuesday, December 6th to release these votes, and there will be a lot of hard work over the holidays and leading up to the holiday season to ensure we get this vote,” Johnson said said. “I think voters are aware that our future is still in jeopardy and we can make a difference in Georgia for the good of the nation. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”

Stephen Lawson, who worked for Loeffler before their 2021 loss to Warnock, recalled that even with a two-month period between the 2020 general election and the second round, “you had voters who didn’t know the runoff date and had to be there remembers it wasn’t over yet.” Lawson now chairs the political action committee 34N22, which supports Walker.

The changes could result in lower voter turnout and possibly a return to the old rules of Georgia’s pre-2021 runoff elections, when Republicans had clear advantages.

“Republicans are better at getting their constituents back up for a runoff,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a lobbyist who was chief of staff to Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and later co-chair of national finance for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Anyone who was not on the lists before November 8th can now register to vote. The last day to register was November 7th.

Georgia’s 159 districts may open early voting earlier than November 28 if they are able to. But they cannot begin until the state confirms the general election, currently scheduled for November 21, Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling said.

But only 10 counties offered more than the mandated five days during June’s runoff, the first statewide election to be held with the abbreviated runoff. In addition, state law prohibits early in-person voting on a state holiday or on the Saturday following a state holiday. Since both Thanksgiving and the following Friday are public holidays, no Saturday voting will be 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 may also offer voting on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when the Nov. 21 race certifies.

Postal voting documents can be requested from now until November 28th. Around 150,000 people who voted by post in the November elections will automatically be sent a ballot paper for the runoff. However, reporting from the Associated Press found that some counties were slow to mail out ballots ahead of the primary runoff, raising questions about whether voters were able to receive and mail them back in a timely manner.

Republicans say the four-week runoff is workable, noting it was law in Georgia before 2013. A federal judge at the time found that military and foreign voters did not have enough time to return ballot-by-mail materials and ordered nine weeks instead. Legislature in 2021 solved this problem by adding ranked ballots for foreign voters, allowing them to select additional candidates in the event of a runoff.

“The districts are already prepared. You know we’re going to have that time,” Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters Wednesday.

Opponents of Georgia’s electoral law say changes to mail-in voting hurt voters and dispute Republicans’ claim that high turnout proves the law has done no harm.

“We know our community members have not had fair and equitable access to postal voting,” 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 do not endorse candidates, but instead advance progressive policies broadly in line with Democrats and are a key wheel in the Democrat turnout machine.

“The way we won in 2021 you see again now,” said Hillary Holley of Care in Action, which advocates for domestic workers. “And yes, is this drain shorter? Absolutely. And do we need everyone who is now starting to make an election plan? Absolutely.”


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