Georgia on Nation’s Political Mind — Again
Voter's GuidePolitics

Georgia on Nation’s Political Mind — Again

Peach state offers political media more to feast on in 2022.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Mindful of Georgia’s headline-making role two years ago — when Georgia shocked the nation by backing Democrat Joe Biden over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and by unseating two Republican senators — a spotlight continues to shine on the state.

In advance of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, the national media has joined the swarm of local reporters who eat, breathe, and sleep Georgia politics.

Much of the attention has been focused on the races for U.S. Senate, governor, and secretary of state, as well as the potential impact of changes made to the state’s voting rules and procedures in the wake of disproven claims of widespread fraud after the 2020 election.

Because Georgia election law requires that the winner receive a majority of the votes cast, the presence of Libertarian candidates in several races could force runoffs on Dec. 6.

Nothing less than control of the U.S. Senate may be at stake as incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock seeks a full six-year term. Polls suggest that he is in a close race against Republican Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy-winning running back on University of Georgia football teams in the early 1980s. Libertarian Chase Oliver could force a runoff.

The other marquee race features a rematch between incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, whom Kemp narrowly defeated in 2018. Recent polls have shown Kemp with a lead of several percentage points over Abrams. If the margin is again close, Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel also is on the ballot.

In another contest of note, incumbent Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, like Kemp the target of Trump’s ire for refusing to overturn the 2020 results, is being challenged by Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen and Libertarian Ted Metz.

A staggering amount of money — more than $360 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — has been spent in Georgia this election cycle by candidates and allied groups, with two-thirds going to the television, radio, and online advertising that seems difficult to avoid.

Following the 2020 election — and despite claims of widespread fraud rejected by Raffensperger, the state’s chief elections official — the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed, and Kemp signed into law changes to the state’s voting rules and procedures.

A formula of one ballot drop box per 100,000 voters has reduced the number of drop boxes, particularly in metro Atlanta, and access to drop boxes has been limited by requirements for placement and hours. The rules on eligibility for absentee ballots (made widely available in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic) have been tightened. And the distribution of refreshments and food to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots is prohibited.

In advance of the election, counties across the state have warned of a shortage of poll workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, older citizens shied away from the job, and harassment of poll workers after the 2020 election has kept others from volunteering for the job.

The state’s estimated population has reached 10.8 million. There are nearly 7.8 million registered voters in Georgia, compared with 6.9 million in 2018, and the composition of the electorate continues to change. The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reported that 20 percent of registered voters — nearly 1.6 million — have been added to the rolls since the 2018 election and that more than half of those new voters are under the age of 35.

Analysis by the AJC found that the number of Hispanic voters has increased by 49 percent since 2018 and now represents four percent of the total registered voters, while the number of Asian American voters has increased by 43 percent since 2018 and now accounts for three percent of registered voters. The percentage of white voters declined from 54 percent in 2018 to 52 percent in 2022. The number of African Americans registered to vote held steady at 30 percent.

The deadline to register to vote passed on Oct. 11. Early voting began Oct. 17 (136,000 ballots were cast on the day alone and more than 750,000-plus by Oct. 24) and ends Nov. 4. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot passed on Oct. 28. Absentee ballots must be received by Nov. 8 to be counted. The polls will open at 7 a.m. on Nov. 8 and will close at 7 p.m., barring circumstances that require going past that time.

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