Georgia, the South’s newest swing state, has seen a fiercely fought campaign for Senate this midterm season. Incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock is facing off against Republican challenger Hershel Walker, a former football star at the University of Georgia.
Warnock won his seat in 2020 through a runoff election, helping Democrats secure control of the upper chamber. Sen. Warnock now faces a tough Republican opponent in Walker in a key contest that could determine who will control the Senate next year.
The two faced off in their first debate Oct. 16, days before early voting was set to begin. Each made a case for representing the state of Georgia and clashed over hot-button issues including abortion, health care access, and inflation.
Key debate moments:Walker reprimanded for using ‘prop’ badge during Georgia Senate debate
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In recent weeks, polling suggests the race will be tight. With a third-party candidate also running, it’s possibleneither Warnock nor Walker clinchesmore than 50% of the vote and a runoff election is needed to determine the winner.
How will a runoff election work in Georgia? We break it down step by step.
What is a runoff election?
A runoff election is a political tiebreaker, a second contest held when no candidate wins the required majority of votes in the general election.
In Georgia, if no candidate secures over 50% of the vote on Nov. 8, the two candidates with the most votes move to a runoff election.
Who can vote in a runoff?
In Georgia, anyone who is registered to vote is eligible to cast their ballot in runoff elections at the local, state, and federal level.
Early voting 2022 schedule:When early and in-person absentee voting starts in each state
When does voting start?
Early voting for a runoff in Georgia begins the 4th Monday before the actual election date.
If a runoff is needed to determine the winning candidate, it is held four weeks after the general election, meaning this year it would fall on Dec. 6, 2022. Under that scenario, early voting would start Nov. 14, just one week after the original election.
Prior to this year, a runoff for federal offices was held nine weeks after the general election. However, a new bill the Georgia legislature passed in 2021 shortened that period to four weeks.
Why does the runoff matter?
Georgia forms a key part of both major political parties’ strategy to win control of the Senate.
The senate currently sits at a 50-50 divide, with Democrats in charge by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to cast tie-breaking votes in her role as president of the Senate. With such a slim majority, any of the 35 senate races across the country could determine whether Democrats maintain control of the chamber. But only a handful, including Georgia, are capable of flipping to the other party.
Chase Oliver, a candidate for the Libertarian party, has a slim chance of winning. But in the neck-and-neck race between Warnock and Walker, Oliver’s campaign could draw just enough votes to deny either major party nominee a clear majority.
Should Warnock lose the race, Democrats would have to flip another GOP seat in order to maintain control of the Senate.
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