Over the past two years, the eyes of the political world have continued to turn back to Georgia.
And for the second time in two years, voters in this central state will choose their senator in a runoff election, which this time will determine whether 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 Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, nearly 1.5 million Georgians have voted early after just one week. Black voters make up nearly a third of early voters so far, and more than a quarter of voters under 50 so far.
About 300,000 Georgians have voted early each day this week – setting records for the largest single day early voting in the state’s history. Early voting for the runoff ended Friday.
Georgians had just five mandatory voting days this year, compared to three weeks during the last runoff and last month’s general election. All but 22 counties chose not to vote early last Saturday and Sunday as well.
Overall, the 2022 midterm turnout was up slightly from the 2018 midterms but down from 21% from the 2020 general election.
Although midterm voters tend to skew older and Whiter, turnout data from the Georgia secretary of state’s office show that midterm voters in Georgia were older and Whiter than they have been in the past four elections, including 2018 midterms, in 2022. Those voters tend to pollute Republican. The fact that Warnock not only forced a runoff but narrowly led Walker in the first round of voting last month suggests he had the support of independent voters and some Republican voters, political scientists told CNN.
“The key for Warnock was that according to the exit polls, he won the independent vote by a pretty large margin,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. “And that was enough to pull him through. In the runoff, I think he will have to do that as well.”
A CNN poll of Georgia voters in the November election shows that the share of independent voters fell by 4 percentage points compared to 2020. However, independent voters made up 24% of the electorate, which Warnock won by 11 points, according to the CNN poll.
A slightly larger share of White voters and smaller shares of Black, Asian and Latino voters cast their ballots in 2022 compared to Georgia’s three previous midterm elections and runoffs. Black voter turnout was the lowest of any election in Georgia since the 2018 midterms.
A 2021 CNN poll showed Warnock winning 93% of Black voters in the last runoff election in Georgia, a 6-point improvement from the November 2020 general election.
The black voter share of Georgia’s electorate increased in the 2021 runoff election when Warnock faced Senator Kelly Loeffler after neither took a majority of the vote in the 2020 general election. Black voters made up 28% of the electorate. of Georgia in that runoff, slightly higher than its share in the 2020 general election. Black voter turnout was highest when Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, ran against now-Gov. Brian Kemp, Republican, for governor in 2018.
Voters in the 2022 midterms were also older. Georgians over 50 made up 59% of the electorate this year, a new high since 2018. The share of voters under 30, meanwhile, fell to 11%, the lowest point since 2018.
Exit polls show that this year Warnock was able to sustain the improvements he made in the 2021 run-off election with younger voters and those in urban areas. He won 68% of the 18-24 vote in the 2021 runoff – a 16-point improvement over Democrats in the 2020 general election. He also won the support of 67% of urban voters in the 2021 runoff, 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 absolutely sure, but 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 does when he runs alone and Republicans have no chance of regaining control of the Senate, Abramowitz told CNN.