The Senate race in Georgia between Democratic incumbent Raphael G. Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker is heading to a Dec. 6 runoff.
With 98 percent of votes counted by around 3 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, Warnock had 49.4 percent of the vote, while Walker had 48.5 percent.
“There is one race in our state that is going to be moving to the December 6th runoff,” Raffensperger told reporters. “That is the race for the United States Senate between Senator Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker.”
Raffensperger, who was reelected Tuesday night, said his office has already begun working to start creating the ballots for the counties preparing for the runoff. Voters, he said, can request absentee ballots starting Wednesday and until Nov. 28. Early voting must begin no later than Nov. 28 in all counties, he said.
“We do ask the voters to come out and vote one last time,” Raffensperger said. “We have no control over how many campaign ads our voters are going to see over the next 30 days, but we’ll make sure that we have honest and fair elections.”
Georgia is one of two states — along with Louisiana — in which runoffs are required during general elections when no candidate secures more than half the votes. In most other states, candidates win in a general election if they secure the most votes — known as a plurality.
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At 2 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Warnock prepared his supporters in Atlanta for a possible runoff.
“I understand that at this late hour you may be a little tired. I may be a little tired for now,” Warnock said. “But whether it’s later tonight or tomorrow or four weeks from now, we will hear from the people of Georgia.”
“I look forward to continuing on that journey together over the next six years,” he added.
Walker gave brief remarks during his election watch party Tuesday night.
“I’m telling you right now,” he said. “I don’t come to lose. And I told you, he’s going to be tough to beat.”
Warnock and Walker have been locked in a hotly contested race critical to determining which party will control the Senate.
The Democratic incumbent is running for his first full term in office after winning a special election for his seat in 2021 that flipped the Senate to Democratic control. That year, the state’s two Senate races went to runoff elections, with Democrats picking up both seats — Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) was elected to a full, six-year term.
In that runoff election, both parties went all in on investments, ads and appearances. In a move many conservatives saw as detrimental to Republicans, however, Donald Trump leveled attacks on Republican officials in the state as he spread false allegations that the 2020 election in Georgia was rigged.
Ultimately, Warnock’s win represented a historic upset in a state once seen as a longtime Republican bastion — following Joe Biden’s win by two-tenths of a point in 2020. Warnock then became the first Black Democratic senator from a formerly Confederate state.
Walker, meanwhile, is a political newcomer and former professional football player who was handpicked by the former president. He ran a staunchly conservative campaign that was, ultimately, mired in scandal after two women accused him of pressuring them to have an abortion, then paying for the procedures. The Republican, who ran on an antiabortion platform and on direct appeals to the party’s evangelical base, has denied that he’s ever paid for an abortion.
While Republicans at first were skeptical of Walker’s campaign, GOP leaders — including Sens. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and Rick Scott of Florida — flocked to Georgia to campaign for him.
Another month of campaigning means Democrats and Republicans are likely to double down on their operations in the Peach State. The race is already the second-most-expensive this campaign cycle, with supporters for both candidates spending a combined $271.5 million, according to OpenSecrets.
Still, the level of investment will also depend on the result of two other Senate elections still pending as of Wednesday evening. Even with a loss in Georgia, if Democrats hold on to their seats in Arizona and Nevada, the Senate would remain under a 50-50 split, with Democrats having a razor-thin majority thanks to the vote of Vice President Harris.
Per Georgia’s rules, all registered voters in the state can cast a ballot in a runoff election. To be eligible to vote in the runoff, they must have registered to vote by Nov. 7.
The 2022 Midterm Elections
Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.
What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.