Taking a Look at the Georgia Runoff Election
Elections & Politics Policy Brief #45 | By: Ian Milden | November 16, 2022
Header photo taken from: 11alive.com
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Photo taken from: The Associated Press / Bob Strong / Reuters
Georgia’s Senate Race is going to a runoff. The runoff will be held on December 6th. This brief will explain the concept of runoff elections and take a look at what both parties are doing to prepare for the runoff.
Runoff elections are a second round of elections held if no candidate received a majority of the vote. In the United States, runoffs tend to be part of the election system in southern states and usually are only in place after primary elections. Georgia has runoffs in general elections in addition to primary elections.
After the Democratic victories in the 2021 runoff elections, Republicans in the Georgia state legislature voted to change the laws regarding runoffs. They voted to shorten the time between the general election and the runoff to four weeks. They also put new restrictions on early voting and registering new voters between election day and the runoff.
Runoff elections tend to have low voter turnout rates because many voters are not aware of their existence or forget the date of the runoff election, so campaigns tend to emphasize turning out voters who make up their party’s base. The new rules for runoffs reinforce this dynamic and severely limit strategic alternatives for campaigns.
The DSCC, the official campaign arm of Senate Democrats, announced plans to heavily invest in voter contact and turnout to help the campaign of Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA). The DSCC can also legally coordinate its efforts with the Warnock campaign.
Republicans are turning to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA), who just won a second term, to help Herschel Walker (R-GA). Kemp will loan his campaign’s get-out-the-vote operation to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC run by people with close ties to Mitch McConnell. This loan includes members of Kemp’s staff as well as his data analytics operations. The Super PAC will cover all of the associated costs. There are legal restrictions on the ability of Super PACs to coordinate with official campaign operations.
Photo taken from: Nicole Craine / The New York Times
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This is a significant strategic shift for the Super PAC because they have never conducted voter turnout operations. Their previous major expenses to help campaigns were usually television and digital ads. While Kemp’s team is very experienced in helping Brian Kemp win elections in Georgia, Herschel Walker trailed Kemp’s vote count by over 200,000 votes due to voters being unwilling to look past Walker’s long list of scandals. This was a trend that early polling detected in this year’s elections.
The results of the November election were what the polls suggested was the most likely outcome. Raphael Warnock led Herschel Walker by a close margin, but he did not get enough votes to avoid a runoff. I would expect the runoff election to also be close and have a lower voter turnout rate than the November election did.
This race will be decided by who shows up to vote. Based on the results of the November election and the strategic decisions that Republicans and Democrats have announced, Warnock winning re-election is a slightly more likely outcome, but Walker can win if Democrats don’t show up to vote on December 6th.