Thousands of people across Georgia spent Thanksgiving weekend casting ballots as early voting for the Dec. 6 U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker kicked off.
According to data from the Georgia Secretary of State's office, more than 181,000 voters across the Peach State already cast their ballots on Saturday and Sunday – and those figures shattered records across the state, officials said.
Per Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer in the Georgia Secretary of State's office, nearly 87,000 voters turned out on Sunday, which was 130% higher than the previous Sunday record of 37,785 set during the 2020 presidential election; Warnock's campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, claimed that the turnout on Sunday in Georgia was higher than any single sunday in the 2022 general election, the 2021 runoff, the 2020 presidential election and the 2018 election.
Of those who have already cast their ballots, more than 84,000 votes, or 46.3%, were Black, and more than 103,000, or 57.2%, were female. While older voters led the way – voters 55-60 cast nearly 23,000 votes, accounting for 12.6% of turnout, followed closely by 60-65 with 12.4% of turnout at 22,463 votes – young voters showed impressive turnout so far: Voters 18-24 accounted for roughly 10% of the total turnout, around 18,000 votes.
Early voting kicked off Saturday thanks to a lawsuit brought by Warnock that challenged a state law which said that early voting could not take place on a Saturday following a holiday on a Thursday or Friday. A state judge sided with Warnock, determining that the law did not apply to a runoff election, and the decision was upheld by a state appeals court.
Georgia voters – who have cast ballots for this U.S. Senate seat four times in the last two years – waited hours in line to vote over the weekend. One such voter was Sen. Warnock, who called it an "honor" to be able to cast a ballot for himself, according to reporters.
"What an honor to be able to vote for yourself," Warnock said after casting his ballot. "To have the people of your state to say, 'We'd like for you to represent us in high office We trust you to look out for our families. We trust you to be thinking about our children, and about our grandmothers and grandfathers.' That's a high honor for anybody."
Warnock led Walker by roughly 37,000 votes in the general election earlier this month, but the race headed to a runoff under Georgia law after neither candidate received a majority of the vote.
Warnock's win in the Jan. 2021 runoff gave Democrats the majority in the 50-50 Senate, which proved crucial to enacting President Joe Biden's legislative agenda, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats are hoping that Warnock, the first Black senator picked by Georgia voters, can secure a full six-year term, which would give them a 51-vote majority in the chamber and break the deadlock.
It would also give Democrats majorities in Senate committees, which would give them an advantage in moving legislation and nominations for federal judges and Cabinet members out of committee faster.