Voters were passionate and willing to wait in line during the final days of early voting in the U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker despite the shorter window for casting a ballot.
The voting process for the runoff was changed under 2021’s Senate Bill 202 and is four weeks after the general election instead of nine weeks. That meant only five mandatory days of statewide in-person early voting and far less time to request and return an absentee ballot.
All 159 counties began early voting Nov. 28, though some allowed Saturday voting on Nov. 26 after Democratic groups sued over the state’s interpretation of a law dealing with early voting after a holiday.
On the final day of in-person voting Dec. 2, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office reported a record-shattering 353,000 Georgians cast their ballots, as voters in some metro Atlanta counties waited in line well past 7 p.m.
As of Friday, Dec. 2, 1,852,576 people had participated in the runoff between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, according to the state’s absentee voter file. That included 136,156 mail-in ballots and 1,712,658 in person.
The electorate is at least 31.9% Black, much higher than this point in the general election and more than the share of registered Black voters.
And heading into the election on Tuesday, Dec. 6, there are still close to 90k absentee ballots that can be mailed back. Polling places for the election are listed here.
Voters who participated in the early voting period shared their thoughts with GPB News reporters.
For Pedro Martinez, the “why” of voting yet another time in the Senate election was about as basic as it could get.
“Well, in my case, I grew up under dictatorships, you know,” he said. “And I appreciate democracy very much. And I will fight for it till the end.”
As for what they were voting for this time, both were clear.
“The issue of abortion; I think that’s very important right now,” Pedro Martinez said, before his wife continued.
“I think it’s a personal choice and it should be not left to the politicians, but between a person, their family, their relationship with their superior being, if they choose to have that rule,” Nancy Martinez said. “But certainly not a politician.”
Both said the threat to abortion rights is something they talk about a lot in their social circles.
“Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely,” Nancy Martinez said. “I have three daughters. And as it stands, I had more rights growing up than they did, and that’s really bothersome.”
The line to vote on Thursday at the Bibb County Board of Elections was dominated largely by seniors. That tracked with statewide numbers where thus far, about 75% of voters have been over the age of 50. Just over 40% have been over the age of 65.
That included Barbara Davis, who, having recently had hip surgery, was shaky on her legs on her way back to a maroon Buick in the parking lot, where her longtime friend Melanie Patten waited.
“I was going to vote today, but the line is so long, so I’m going to try to make it here early tomorrow,” Patten said. Davis had the benefit of a shorter line due to her new hip. For the rest, like Patten, it was a 40-minute process from start to finish.
But, Patten said, she has a plan to cast her ballot in the Senate runoff.
“Yes, I do — and I definitely will be voting,” she said. “Because it needs to be done. It needs to be done. Definitely. I’m voting for change.”
From the back seat, Davis said she wanted to see more people take action like she did.
“We need to get more people out here to vote,” she said. “Think about all these that got killed for us to have these rights to do these things.”
Making good on the sacrifices of those that came before her was top of mind for Angie Scott in Savannah.
“I want to make sure that we have representation that takes into consideration our issues in a real and authentic way,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter to me that Democrats have already taken the Senate. We still want to make sure that we have laws moving forward that are in our best interest.”
Like Scott, Philip Vickers still voted even though the Georgia seat no longer figures into the balance of Senate control.
“I don’t really have much against Warnock,” Vickers said. “He seems like an okay guy to me, but he just votes with Schumer and Biden and Pelosi just because they’re backing it.”
For Vickers, the recent federal infrastructure law still grates on his nerves.
“That includes payments for stadiums and and things that aren’t related to infrastructure directly,” he said. “That really bothers me. I wish that was illegal.”’
And so Vickers voted for Herschel Walker who, he said, he trusts won’t vote in lockstep with Democrats.
The U.S. runoff election is Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, and polling places are open in all Georgia counties. To find your polling place, click here. For voter guides, election stories and live results from the Associated Press on election night, visit GPB.org/Elections.
“This story comes to Intown/Reporter through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.