Early, in-person voting began in Georgia over the weekend and saw high participation in counties that participated.
Voter turnout in the U.S. Senate runoff between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, as of Monday morning, sat at just under 2.5%, or 176,456 ballots cast, according to the most recent L2 voter data.
While that doesn’t seem like much, early voting over the weekend occurred in just 34 of the state’s 159 counties. And, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, more people on average voted early this weekend than on single-day weekend voting opportunities in the 2021 runoff election. This year, about 70,000 people voted on Saturday while another 87,000 voted on Sunday. In the 2021 runoff, daily weekend early voting turnout ranged from 15,600 to 64,500.
Early voting was allowed this weekend despite efforts by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to deny it, citing a Georgia law that bans voting within two days of a holiday. A judge ruled the law didn’t apply to a runoff.
Unlike 2021, when voters had two weekends to participate in early voting, this was the only weekend early voting was available, due to a new state law that shrunk the period of time between the General Election and runoff from nine weeks to just four.
Voters can still cast an early, in-person ballot ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff from now until Friday in all Georgia counties.
Of those who have voted so far, nearly 74% are Democrats while fewer than 20% are Republicans. Another less than 7% of those who cast a ballot were non-partisan voters.
Whether that trend holds from now until the end of early voting, and whether Republicans will wait until Election Day to cast a ballot, remains to be seen. But the disparity between Democrats and Republicans during the first two-days of voting may offer some optimism to Warnock’s campaign as both he and Walker work to turnout voters during the shortened voting period.
A runoff in the race is necessary after Warnock led the General Election by about 36,000 votes over Walker, but failed to reach the 50% of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.
That resets the clock for both campaigns, who no longer face a Libertarian candidate on the ballot.
Democrats have already secured a majority in the Senate. A flipped seat in Pennsylvania allowed the party to, at the minimum, maintain its 50/50 split in the chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. If Warnock wins, Democrats would win an outright majority and avoid the need to establish a power-sharing agreement with the GOP.