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Election Day is here for Georgia's Senate runoff between Warnock and Walker

ABC News 12/6/2022
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In Georgia, the stage is set for the final Senate battle of the midterm election as voters head back to the polls on Tuesday for the runoff election between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

In November's general election, Warnock finished less than 1% ahead of Walker, falling just short of the 50% threshold required by state law, triggering a four-week runoff election that included at least five days of mandatory early voting last week.

Georgia is no stranger to runoff elections and this is the third time voters cast ballots in a Senate runoff election in less than two years. But the dynamics have shifted since the 2020 campaign that got Warnock elected. The state legislature passed a sweeping voting law last year that, among other changes, shortened the runoff period from nine weeks to four, causing an all-out sprint to the finish line for both candidates.

On Monday, Walker and Warnock made their closing pitches to voters in multiple campaign stops on the eve of Election Day.

Georgia Republican senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks to members of the press after a campaign stop on Dec. 5, 2022 in Dawsonville, Georgia. © Alex Wong/Getty Images Georgia Republican senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks to members of the press after a campaign stop on Dec. 5, 2022 in Dawsonville, Georgia.

Walker, a local college football legend, spent most of the day in traditionally conservative north Georgia, holding a slew of meet-and-greets with supporters as he looks to make up ground with Republican voters after receiving roughly 200,000 fewer ballots than his GOP ticket-mate Gov. Brian Kemp in November's election.

"I feel pretty good about tomorrow," Walker told ABC News outside a campaign stop in Dawsonville.

"We're working on turnout, turnout, turnout, so trying to get the people out to turnout the vote. You know, I think a vote for Warnock is a vote for these failed policies. A vote for me is a better coming," Walker continued.

Warnock, a noted reverend, spent his last day on the campaign trail in Atlanta, including stops at Georgia Tech and at Killer Mike's Atlanta barbershop, The Swag Shop. Warnock has largely campaigned in the runoff on "character" -- in a swipe at Walker's controversies on the trail -- and has focused on appealing to moderates and independent voters like the small but potentially crucial number of split-ticket voters while simultaneously working to energize his base.

"We've been engaged in this work and in this movement together for a while now. I started on this journey to the Senate about three years ago and now there's only one day left. But it all really comes down to this: We need you to show up," Warnock told students at Tech.

Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters during his campaign tour in Columbus, Ga., Oct. 8, 2022. © Megan Varner/Getty Images Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters during his campaign tour in Columbus, Ga., Oct. 8, 2022.

While Georgia's runoff won't decide the balance of power in the Senate after a midterm victory in Nevada secured Democrats' control in the upper chamber, both parties have cautioned voters not to tune out the implications of the race. A 50th Republican seat would create procedural obstacles for Democrats while a 51st seat for Democrats would give them more power on committees and a little more leeway in securing 50 votes when needed.

"There is still a path for Herschel Walker to win this race," Warnock said Monday. "And so if there's anything I'm worried about, it's that people will think that we don't need their voice. We do."

While runoffs historically see lower turnout than general elections, voters seemingly remain engaged as Georgia saw record-breaking early numbers last week.

According to state election data, 352,953 people cast ballots on Friday, the final day of early voting for the runoff, bringing the total number of early votes, both in-person and absentee, to more than 1.8 million.

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