Over the past two years, the eyes of the political world have returned to Georgia again and again.
And for the second time in two years, voters in this key state will choose their senator in a runoff election, which this time will determine whether the Democrats extend their 50-50 majority.
Early data shows that voters are not tired of their civic duty.
Heading into Tuesday’s Senate runoff between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, nearly 1.5 million Georgians voted early after just about a week. Black voters make up nearly a third of the early electorate to date, while more than a quarter of voters to date are under the age of 50.
About 300,000 Georgians voted early every day this week, setting records for the largest single-day early turnout in state history. Early voting for the second round ended on Friday.
Georgians had just five mandatory days to vote early this year, compared to three weeks during the last round and before last month’s general election. All but 22 provinces have chosen not to allow an early vote last Saturday and Sunday either.
Overall, turnout in the 2022 midterm elections was slightly higher than in the 2018 midterm elections, but more than 21% lower than in the 2020 general election.
While midterm voters tend to be older and whiter, turnout data from the Office of the Secretary of State of Georgia shows that in 2022, Georgia midterm voters were older and whiter than in the past four elections, including the 2018 midterm election. tends to lean Republican. The fact that Warnock not only forced a runoff election but also narrowly led Walker in the first round of voting last month suggests he had the support of independent and some Republican voters, political scientists told CNN.
“The key to Warnock was that, according to the exit polls, he won the independent vote by a pretty big margin,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. “And that was enough to pull him through. In the second round I think he should do the same.”
CNN exit polls of voters in Georgia in the November election show the share of independent voters shrunk by 4 percentage points compared to 2020. However, independent voters made up 24% of the electorate, which Warnock won by 11 points, according to CNN exit polls.
A slightly higher proportion of white voters and a smaller proportion of black, Asian, and Latino voters cast ballots in 2022 compared to Georgia’s previous three midterm elections and runoffs. The share of black voters was the lowest of any election in Georgia since the 2018 midterm elections.
A 2021 CNN exit poll found that Warnock won 93% of black voters in Georgia’s final runoff election, a 6-point improvement from the November 2020 general election.
The share of black voters in Georgia’s electorate increased during the 2021 runoff as Warnock faced Senator Kelly Loeffler after neither secured a majority of the vote in the 2020 general election. Black voters made up 28% of Georgia’s electorate in that second round, slightly more than their share in the 2020 general election. Black voter turnout was highest when Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, first rebelled against the current administration. Brian Kemp, a Republican, for governor in 2018.
Voters in the 2022 midterm elections were also older. Georgians over 50 represented 59% of the electorate this year, a new high since 2018. The share of voters under 30, meanwhile, shrunk to 11%, the lowest point since 2018.
Exit polls show that this year Warnock was able to maintain the improvements he made in the 2021 runoff among the youngest voters and those in urban areas. He won 68% of the 18-24 vote in the second round of 2021 — a 16-point improvement over the Democrats in the 2020 general election. He also won the support of 67% of urban voters in the second round of 2021, 4 points more than the Democrats’ share in 2020. Warnock won 69% of 18-24 year olds and 68% of urban voters in last month’s general election.
Last month’s election was unusual in that more than 17,000 Georgians skipped the Senate race at the top of the ballot, but voted for governor.
“We’re not entirely sure, but it’s very likely that those voters are probably Republicans,” said Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University.
There were also Kemp voters this year who crossed the aisle to vote for Warnock and then voted for the rest of the Republican ticket, Steigerwalt said. Kemp received 2.1 million votes, about 200,000 more than Walker.
The big question for this runoff is how Walker fares running alone and with no chance of Republicans regaining control of the Senate, Abramowitz told CNN.