Election Day blog: Ongoing coverage of today’s high-stakes Senate runoffs

Georgians head to the polls Tuesday for the final day of voting in Georgia's dual U.S. Senate runoffs after two months of non-stop political commercials, mailers, door-to-door campaigners and other other attempts to win their vote and push them to the polls. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

More than 3 million people have already cast a ballot ahead of today’s final day of voting in a trio of runoffs that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate and could elect a Democrat to the state’s currently all-GOP Public Service Commission. The high stakes have thrust Georgia politics onto the national stage for the last two months. Democrats appear to have built up a lead during early voting and Republicans hope a big day of voting will keep Georgia’s GOP senators in Washington. Check in with us throughout the day for updates.

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2 weeks ago

7:23 pm

Southwest Atlanta voter: ‘This is a blue state now’

By: Stanley Dunlap

Quan Jones says she backed all three Democrats on Tuesday’s ballot, including the candidate running in the lower profile state Public Service Commission race. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Quan Jones says she understands the significance of Tuesday’s Senate runoffs in shaping the future of the nation.

She is backing Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, as well as Daniel Blackman’s effort to become the lone Democrat on the state Public Service Commission.

The 28-year-old patient care technician at Emory Decatur Hospital cast her votes Tuesday night at the New Life Presbyterian Church in southwest Atlanta.

“I feel like our voices need to be heard, and we need someone to run the country who has our back and knows what they’re doing, ” she said. “We need to get the other people out of the office because they don’t have our best interests at heart.”

Jones said she supports the Democrats’ push to pass a larger stimulus package and accelerate the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“People have lost their jobs because of this pandemic, so that needs to be in effect so whatever can help us for the better.”

New Presbyterian was one of the final stops for the Black Voters Matter bus tour.

Iris Strickland says she’s optimistic the Senate runoffs will lead to social justice, police reforms and other significant changes. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

“These elections are another opportunity for our folks to build power,” said Wanda Mosley, senior state coordinator. “And so what we want to do is carry this momentum from the general and the runoff into 2021 when we have local elections because that’s when we build real power.”

For Iris Strickland, this election can lead to social justice, police reforms and other significant changes. 

“This is a blue state now and we have to keep it going at all costs,” said the 57-year-old Atlantan, who works in logistics. “This is for my children’s children. I’m a new grandmother, so the importance of this now being a police state and opening up different opportunities for us.”

2 weeks ago

4:35 pm

Biden’s push for Warnock, Ossoff continues into Election Day

By: Stanley Dunlap

President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Atlanta the day before the election. It was his second rally in Georgia since being elected to the White House. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

President-elect Joe Biden outlined the stakes in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs during a radio interview with Atlanta’s V103.

If Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff prevail, then Vice President Kamala Harris can break any tie votes in the Senate to ensure deals like a new stimulus package gets passed, Biden told radio host Kenny Burns. 

Biden argued that Republicans Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are not looking out for the best interest of Georgians. 

“The Republican senators of Georgia, their loyalty is to (President Donald) Trump, not to the people of Georgia,” Biden said. “ When I got sworn into the Senate, I didn’t pledge allegiance to the president, whether it’s Republican or Democrat.”

The interview aired this afternoon, a day after both Biden and Trump led rallies in Georgia in support of their political allies. 

Biden said in the radio interview that it’s time for the nation to come together after the last four years of decisiveness led by Trump – an appeal he has also delivered in person during his three recent stops in Georgia. 

“One of the reasons I ran, Kenny, as you know, and the same reason why I think Jon and the reverend are running as well is we’ve got to restore a sense of decency and honor and commitment to one another,” Biden said. “We’ve got to unite this country.”

Biden’s interview is another last-minute pitch to get Democratic voters to the polls before they close at 7 p.m. The president-elect has also been tweeting about little else lately. 

For most Georgians who’ve already turned out today, there’s been virtually no wait to cast their ballots, although foot traffic might pick up as more people leave work for the day. 

Across Georgia, the average wait time has been a couple of minutes, according to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Last updated:4:36 pm

2 weeks ago

4:03 pm

GOP senators say they are seeing north Georgia Trump bump after rally

By: Jill Nolin

The campaigns of Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler released a joint statement mid-afternoon Tuesday expressing cautious optimism about today’s turnout.

The campaigns, which have teamed up during the runoffs, said they were hearing reports of high turnout in north Georgia. President Donald Trump held an election-eve rally in Dalton near the Tennessee line, where he urged voters to turn out for Perdue and Loeffler while also continuing to cast doubt on Georgia’s election system.

“But make no mistake about it: this is going to a very close election and could come down to the difference of just a few votes in a few precincts across the state,” the joint statement read.

“This generational election will be decided by the votes cast in the next few hours – no one should be sitting on the sidelines. Go Vote!”

Republicans are hoping to rack up big numbers today on the final day of voting, when the bulk of their voters tend to head to the polls. They have plenty of ground to make up: GOP strongholds like Cherokee County started the day with turnout that lagged what was seen in the general election.

Last updated:4:05 pm

2 weeks ago

2:07 pm

Volunteer in Fulton Co. credits early voting rush for lighter turnout today

By: John McCosh

Lines were short and voters moved briskly through Fulton County’s Ponce De Leon library branch near lunchtime Tuesday, a precinct where President-elect Joe Biden secured 86% of the vote in the November general election.

Keshia Walker helped a group of volunteers at the Ponce De Leon library in Fulton County keep voters supplied with bottled water and snacks to encourage them to cast ballots. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Keisha Walker, a volunteer with Insight Marketing, was at the library before poll workers opened the doors at 7 a.m. when a line formed and lots of voters were on hand to snap up free snacks and bottled water.

“It was busy in the morning here and at the polls across Georgia,” Walker said. “And then since they processed those first voters, it’s been kind of quiet. We’re expecting it to pick up at lunchtime. And then again, hopefully this evening, the last couple hours people get on board.”

During the June primary and again in the general election the lines at the library, like much of Fulton County, prompted the Georgia Secretary of State to ramp up poll worker training and recruiting later in the summer. That and Georgia’s 3 million early voters are likely responsible for smoothing out the voting process in today’s high-stakes U.S. Senate runoff, Walker said.

“Last week we saw a lot of people because it was a holiday and lots of people were off,” Walker said. “We had great numbers during early voting.”

Ask her why she’s spending all day outside the library starting with a chilly morning that dipped into the 40s, Walker launches into a tribute to the red, white and blue.

“We want people to get out and vote,” she said. “Democracy is the greatest thing that the United States has that a lot of countries can’t offer. So, I tell people for no other reason come and exercise your rights, regardless of who you’re voting for.”

2 weeks ago

1:27 pm

Dispatch from Bartow County: GOP voters eager to vote in spite of concerns

By: Ross Williams

If Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue hold onto their seats, north Georgia Republican voters will likely prove a big reason why.

In suburban Bartow County, President Trump received nearly 75% of the vote, and voters in the county seat of Cartersville were eager Tuesday to cast their ballots for Loeffler and Perdue. 

Bryant Huston, who voted on Election Day at the Cartersville Civic Center in north Georgia, said his views on abortion helped make voting for the GOP Senate candidates an easy call for him. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

For medical lab tech Bryant Huston, the decision was a no-brainer.

“I am a Republican, I stand for what they believe in and their values,” he said. “I cannot go with the Democratic side, because I’m 100% Christian, I do not believe in abortion, I am pro-life, along with other values that the Republicans stand for, our freedom, our Constitution, and our Second Amendment rights, and lower taxes. I believe that the Democratic Party wants to raise our taxes.”

Others in line at the Cartersville Civic Center had similar opinions.

“I don’t believe in anything that Democrats stand for,” said small business owner Jeff Lewis. “I’ve always been conservative, and it’s just important to get out and vote, and vote your values.”

Lowell Worthington said Tuesday that he reluctantly voted for Loeffler’s Republican opponent Congressman Doug Collins in the November general – he said he would have preferred Collins stay in the House and let Loeffler run unopposed by Republicans – but he happily voted for Loeffler Tuesday.

A big question going into Tuesday was whether unfounded conspiracy theories promoted by President Donald Trump about his November loss would discourage Republicans from heading to the polls. That’s a concern for Lewis, but with so much at stake, he said he thinks conservatives will show up.

“I believe they’ll be persuaded to come out and vote,” he said. “If they really think about it objectively, I think they’ll see no other recourse and that their vote will matter, because it certainly will matter in this election.”

Huston said he has questions about the fairness of the election, but he couldn’t stand to let those questions stop his voice from being heard.

“I believe there’s been fraud throughout, not just here in Georgia, but other states as well,” he said. “But I still feel like it is my duty as an American citizen to still come out and cast my vote, regardless of whether I believe it will be cast as Republican or Democrat.”

Last updated:1:49 pm

2 weeks ago

12:25 pm

Low turnout so far at one southeast Atlanta polling place

By: Stanley Dunlap

A large contingent of local, national and international media gathered Tuesday morning outside Atlanta’s Dunbar Neighborhood Center polling station as Democrat Jon Ossoff expressed optimism about the potential of pulling off an upset in today’s Senate runoff election. 

Ossoff trailed Republican Sen. David Perdue by about 88,000 votes in the general election, which was just enough to pull Perdue below the threshold he needed to avoid a runoff.

Democrat Jon Ossoff talks to reporters outside an Atlanta polling place on Election Day. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

The Democrat called today is a historic moment for Georgia and the nation and said, if elected, he would help push through a $2,000 stimulus payment for most Americans and work to quickly increase distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

“I feel grateful to all the people who have already cast their ballots,” Ossoff said. “And I just want to urge everybody to participate in this election today and get out there and vote.”

Atlanta residents Terrence Brown and Ashley Edwards said they felt a sense of relief as they headed to vote today after the intense runoffs. 

“Historically, our parents and forefathers fought for us to have this opportunity to vote, so we know it matters and that’s what we’re here to do,” said 33-year-old Edwards.

Voters Terrence Brown and Ashley Edwards pose for a photo outside an Atlanta polling place on Election Day. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

For Atlanta’s Braylon Day, this election is a chance to get Democrats into critical positions in the Senate and the state Public Service Commission and an opportunity to cap off the historic presidential victory. Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia is three decades. 

“I honestly didn’t think we’d get this far, but I feel like there’s enough momentum to win this,” said the 42-year-old electrician.

By 11 a.m., only about 130 people had come out to vote at Dunbar Neighborhood Center in southeast Atlanta. Dunbar poll watcher Peter Vaky said the lower turnout is a different experience from the early voting period. 

“What I thought was interesting is I worked at other places for early voting last week and the week before and they were really crowded,” he said. It was almost like a general election feel, very active with a lot of people coming in and steady lines until close. I think that has taken most of the steam.”

Last updated:1:50 pm

2 weeks ago

11:34 am

Analysis: GOP needs high Election Day turnout

By: Jill Nolin

Republicans will need to have a big day today to keep Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats – and the chamber more broadly – in GOP hands, according to an analysis from Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Strong Election Day turnout generally favors Republican candidates in Georgia. In November, President Donald Trump won Election Day voting by about 23 percentage points, although it was not enough to overcome the advantage Democrat Joe Biden built with early and mail-in voting that accounted for about 80% of all ballots cast. Biden ultimately won here by about 12,000 votes.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which is housed within the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, still considers both of Georgia’s Senate races toss-ups.

“If Democrats have done better in the pre-Election Day vote this time, then Republicans either need to win the Election Day vote by more than Trump did, or have the Election Day electorate make up a bigger share of the total votes cast (and still vote heavily Republican),” Kyle Kondik writes for the political preview published today.

More than 3 million Georgians voted before today, which is down from general election early voting but still considered high for a statewide runoff.

The total number of votes cast will likely need to surpass 4 million today in order for Republicans to keep the seats, Kondik writes.

“If turnout runs south of 4 million, the Democrats may be in good shape given their likely advantage in the votes already cast, which constitute a healthy chunk of the eventual total,” Kondik said. “Our uncertainty about what the turnout ultimately will be is why we’ve decided to keep both races as Toss-ups.”

Last updated:1:51 pm

2 weeks ago

10:17 am

Georgians line up early to kick off momentous Senate runoffs

By: Ross Williams

Physical therapist William Shealy cast his vote before the sun came up Tuesday morning at Hillside United Methodist Church in Woodstock.

Shealy was the first person in line at 5:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the polls opened.

“We’ve got to go to work. We’ve got work to do,” he said. “That’s why we were first. We beat the poll workers here, had to wait a little while for them, they came at six6, something like that, but it was a smooth process. I gave my ID, signed in, voted, no problem.”

Several dozen early voters waited for the polls to open at Hillside United Methodist Church in Cherokee County’s Woodstock on the last day of voting in Georgia. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Several dozen people waited behind Shealy before the polls opened, but the line moved quickly through the early morning. Over 3 million Georgians voted before Election Day. That’s down 23% from the 3.9 million Georgians who cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 6 general election, a far smaller drop than in the typical statewide runoff election.

The stakes of this runoff are high: if either of Georgia’s two incumbent Republican Senators, Kelly Loeffler or David Perdue, are victorious, their party will maintain control of the Senate and likely be able to foil much of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. If both Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win, Biden will spend at least the first two years of his term with a slim majority in Congress.

President Donald Trump has spread unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about his losses in Georgia and other states, including at a rally in support of Perdue and Loeffler Monday night. Whether his supporters will do as he asks and support the Republican senators or stay home because they think their votes won’t be counted is an open question.

Republican voter Diane Masters of Woodstock said concerns about the election led to family disagreements.

“I didn’t trust the system,” she said. “In fact, I’m only here because it’s a God-given right and because my 18-year-old, who was legally able to vote in this election — he was a Christmas Eve baby — he decided not to because he didn’t think he could believe in the system. So I’m here because I wanted to show him that even if you don’t believe in the system, you come in.”

The high stakes combined with unfounded claims of a stolen election have created a tense atmosphere. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office has boosted security at each of the county’s 40 polling locations to reassure voters the precincts are secure.

A marked sheriff’s office car was parked in front of the church’s entrance and another patrolled between the parked cars before moving on.

C. Collins, a Woodstock cashier, said she was committed to coming to the polls on Election Day despite the unusually contentious Election Day noise.

“It was a little bit concerning, but at the same time, I kind of just prayed about it,” she said. “I was like, ‘All right, well, this is what I’ve got to do for my country, and if that happens, then I’ll have people around me who will figure it out,’” she said.

Last updated:1:51 pm