Warnock, Walker in tight race as Georgia counts votes

ATLANTA (NewsNation) — Polls have now closed in Georgia, where on a cold and damp December Tuesday, residents lined up and waited to cast their votes in a Senate runoff election.

Voters will decide the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democrat Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, football legend Herschel Walker. More than 1.7 million people cast their ballots during the early voting period, which was condensed this year following a change in state law last year.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, revealed on NewsNation’s “CUOMO,” that there was “very strong” in-person voter turnout, with over 1.4 million people showing up.

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“Our job is to make sure we have honest and fair elections. Also, because there’s been so much misinformation over the last couple of cycles, we will be doing an audit of this,” Raffensperger told “CUOMO.” “There’ll be a risk limiting audit, so that we can verify to the voters, we went back into the sample size of hand counting. And we verify, here’s what the results are. We did that in the fall. We’ll do it for this one. So all the voters know: this is the person that won this race. Hands down. No questions.”

When asked if he thinks Walker should win the race, Raffensperger said it’s up to the voters and that he doesn’t get involved in who he thinks should win the race.

This runoff concludes a four-week runoff blitz that has drawn a flood of outside spending in an increasingly personal fight.

This Election Day, however, was different as throughout much of Atlanta, the lines didn’t last long at all.

“It was quick and easy. Got in and out. No problems,” Jon Classon, a Georgia voter, said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Tuesday.

“I went straight in, straight out, no lines, click click clack clang, bye. It was amazing,” Denise Carson, another Georgia voter, said.

It’s a stark difference from three years ago when Carson couldn’t have even told you who was on the ballot or why it even mattered to vote.

Now that Georgia is once again at the center of the political universe, she wasn’t going to miss it.

“The most powerful thing is you being part of the change,” Carson said.  

Niall Stanage, associate editor with The Hill, joined NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Tuesday to break down why this race matters, even though the Senate and House majorities have been decided.

According to Stanage, it’s about more than bragging rights.

“It offers Democrats the chance to get to 51 seats — a real majority that gives them more leeway then they’ve had for the past two years in a 50-50 Senate. It allows Democrats to drive the business of the Senate,” Stanage said.

Stanage said it also keeps former President Donald Trump at bay.

“The fates of Donald Trump and Herschel Walker are very closely intertwined. The former president encouraged Walker to get into this race. If he wins, that’s a measure of vindication for Trump but if he loses, that makes the midterms even more miserable than they have been for the former president,” he said.

Coming into the grand finale, nearly two million ballots were already cast — thanks to early and absentee voting.

Democrats showed an expected turnout edge among these voters — with about 52% of the votes coming from registered Democrats, and approximately 39% from Republicans.

The GOP, however, is banking on Election Day turnout — that’s why the national RNC made one final push on Election Day eve.

Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the U.N., pleaded for Republicans to vote at all costs.

“I want you to do what the sign says and flood the polls on Dec. 6,” Haley said.

But Democrats had their own big-game assist in the 11th hour. President Joe Biden, who has been largely absent from the campaign trail these last four weeks, called in to a local Atlanta radio station.

“It really is critical because, look, all the things Rev. Warnock has supported are things the people of Georgia care a great deal about,” Biden said.

Seeking a chance to go back to Washington and his first full six-year term in Senate, Warnock told supporters in Atlanta he feels good. 

“We’re leaving it all on the field. But I’ve got a feeling the people of Georgia are gonna get this right and we’re gonna get this done one more time,” he said. 

Over in Marrietta, Herschel Walker — the former Georgia football star turned Republican candidate —thanked those who supported him in his first campaign. Looking back, he said he had no regrets. 

“I’m so proud of my team. That’s the reason we’re in this election right now. That’s the reason we’re gonna win this election, because right now, Georgia is looking for a Senator that’s gonna speak for them.”

Today, however, the fate of the final U.S. Senate seat rested in the hands of the voters. 

“Everybody’s always fighting about what’s right and what’s wrong. If you don’t show up to vote, you don’t have a right to complain. I like to whine and complain a little bit, so I showed up and voted,” said Georgia voter David Gaynoe.

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