Georgia voting groups face new challenges to 'get out the vote'

The runoff election is happening sooner due to a new election law cutting in half the time between a general and a runoff election.

CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. — The Senate runoff in Georgia is next Tuesday and early voting is underway.

Either Democratic Incumbent Raphael Warnock or his Republican challenger Herschel Walker will take the seat. Warnock beat Walker in the primaries but neither candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote.

More than 500,000 people have voted early in Georgia as of this Tuesday morning, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Preparations for the runoff election were more rushed this time due to the shortened time period since the primary election. That led to new challenges for groups working to get out the vote.

“Before now we had nine weeks between to do a runoff election,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group. “Now it’s four weeks and it really came down to a week and a couple of days.”

The runoff election is happening sooner due to a new election law cutting in half the time between a general and a runoff election. This shortened the length of early voting. For Butler it means less time working to get out the vote – again.

First Coast News asked UNF Public Opinion Research Lab Faculty Director Michael Binder if he expects to see the same number of voters for the runoff election compared to the primary election.

“Probably not,” Binder said. “People didn’t just go and vote for the Senate races. There were governor races, there were congressional races, there’s local races up and down the ballot. So any number of issues could have brought people to the polls. They might not be here this time.”

However, where Butler is in Atlanta, she says many people are once again heading to the polls. Lines were seen outside polling places Saturday in several counties.

“There were long lines, yes,” she said. “People were wrapped around the buildings to be able to exercise their right to vote.”

Butler says her group has received many calls from voters worried their absentee ballots will not arrive in time and voters asking for rides to the polls, which her group arranges.

Although Democrats will hold the majority in the U.S. Senate no matter which way the vote goes in Georgia, Binder says who gets elected for the six-year term will have big implications.

How many times did you hear West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s name the past few years when it came to something getting held up on the Senate floor? Binder says if Warnock wins, Democrats will have things easier.

“With that 51/49, it enables them to essentially think about their policies and care much less about the Republican policies,” Binder said. “But also an organizational structure, now any given Democrat can’t hold up the whole process. So Joe Manchin got a lot of attention in the last two years. Suddenly, you can go without him and you don’t need to cater to every single individual senator’s wish and desire.”

Find your early voting location and the times it’s open here.

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