After passing Walker on Election Day, Warnock narrowly improved his statewide margins in the runoff. He was encouraged by strong enough turnout in the Atlanta area, particularly among black voters. And he built up an advantage with early and mail-in voting that Republicans simply couldn’t grasp, an issue the GOP is belatedly addressing after its disappointing midterm elections.
Here are the numbers that explain how the incumbent Democrat did it.
More than 320,000 votes: Warnock’s advantage of the mail and early voting
Georgia’s runoff results once again highlighted the recent partisan polarization of voting methods. Since 2020, Republican leaders, including former President Donald Trump, have expressed skepticism about early and absentee voting methods, though several Republican leaders besides Trump appear to be reconsidering that opposition after losses in Georgia and elsewhere. .
Democrats dominated both types of voting during the runoff, with Warnock winning more than 58 percent support from those who cast their ballots in advance or by mail. That partly reflected demographics more likely to vote early: Black voters accounted for 31.8 percent of those who cast ballots before Election Day, up several percentage points from November.
Despite the records set in the first few days of early voting, there was still significantly less total early voting than in the January 2021 runoffs, when the early voting period was longer and overall turnout, including voting for the Election Day, topped 4.4 million, compared to just 3.5 million this year.
But early and absentee voting still allowed Warnock to build a lead of more than 320,000 votes, which Walker was unable to overcome on Election Day. The Republican candidate won the Election Day vote by around 225,000 votes, not enough to put him over the top.
Only 26 of 159 counties: where Walker improved his margin compared to November
After trailing slightly behind Warnock in the November election that sparked the runoff, Walker needed to turn the turnout in his favor or improve his margins.
He could not do it. Walker’s share of the bipartisan vote improved in just 26 of the state’s 159 counties, according to a POLITICAL analysis of unofficial results reported by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The counties where he did improve were largely small and rural, accounting for only 5 percent of the total votes cast in the state, so Walker was unable to amass enough votes to offset Warnock’s gains elsewhere.
That was always going to be difficult without popular Republican Gov. Brian Kemp also on the ballot, though Kemp jumped into the runoff campaign after his re-election. Despite some split voting, Kemp’s victory by a 7-plus point margin likely helped keep Walker close in November.
“Without a candidate like Brian Kemp, who was so popular and so good at campaigning and getting people to the polls, it’s easy to see how Reverend Warnock would have achieved that 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a runoff,” he said. Jermaine House, a spokesman for the progressive research firm HIT Strategies.
Walker didn’t quite sink to the bottom. Despite a series of scandals and Democrats outspending the Republican Party 2-1 in the final weeks leading up to the runoff, he was still within a few percentage points of victory. But he was unable to make substantive improvements across the state after a disappointing Election Day, and that left him short of a majority.
Close enough to 90 percent: Turnout compared to November in Atlanta-area Democratic strongholds
State turnout in the runoff was about 89 percent of what it was in November, with more than 3.5 million voters casting their ballots this time. High turnout does not inherently benefit one candidate or the other. But Walker, trailing slightly in the November election, needed a relatively larger turnout in pro-GOP counties compared to Democratic-leaning ones. That did not materialize substantially.
Johnson County, Walker’s territory in east central Georgia, was the only county that saw more votes cast in December compared to November. But it didn’t work out to Walker’s advantage: Warnock actually increased his share of the vote slightly.
More importantly to Warnock, Democratic strongholds in the Atlanta metro area saw relatively high turnout. In DeKalb County, turnout was higher than the state average. It was slightly lower in Clayton and Fulton counties, but Warnock slightly improved its margin in both, making up for share losses.