Voters in Clayton County stood in line, in some places for more than two hours, to cast their vote in the U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker.

A line of voters outside the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro wraps around the front of the courthouse along South McDonigh Street. The wait was about two and one-half hours to cast a ballot on the county’s first day of early voting in the U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. One voter told The Clayton Crescent there had been a similar wait time at Morrow City Hall, while the wait at the Forest Park Senior Center was only a few minutes. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

At the Historic Courthouse in Clayton County, the line stretched all the way down the courthouse lawn and out onto the sidewalk, past the Christmas tree in the center of the lawn.

Early in the afternoon, three people, including Clayton County Republican Women’s Club President Della Ashley, held signs during a small prayer vigil on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. A Clayton County Police officer and elections officials came down to see how far they were standing from the end of the voter line and determined they were not violating the posted 150-foot electioneering line, which was about halfway up the lawn. SB 202 forbids “line warming,” which is the act of handing out water or food to voters waiting in line. Voters in line are protected by a 25-foot buffer zone, which move as the line moves—meaning that no one can campaign for a candidate within 25 feet of a voter waiting to cast a ballot. The demonstrators’ signs did not mention Walker or abortion, but Walker is the only candidate in the race who runs a pro-life platform.

Clayton County Republican Party Republican Women’s Club President Della Ashley (center) and others pray and hold pro-life signs at the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro outside the 150′ electioneering line. Elections officials and a Clayton County Police officer said that, although the group was within 150′ of the end of the line of voters waiting to cast ballots, they had not broken state election law. Republican Herschel Walker has said he opposes all abortion; two women have alleged publicly that Walker paid for or offered to pay for their abortions. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)
A sign about halfway between the sidewalk on South McDonough Street and the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro demarcates the line beyond which people cannot electioneer. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)
A sign at the Clayton County Courthouse shows where three pro-life demonstrators held signs during a prayer vigil on the first day of early voting in Jonesboro, Nov. 27, 2022. While the demonstrators came within 150 feet of people waiting to vote, they did not violate the 150-foot boundary outside the polling place, according to elections officials and Clayton County Police. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

People generally were in a good mood, waiting patiently and chatting about politics and football.

Valerie Pounds said, “People do not understand where the real power is in terms of elections. The Congress and the House, that’s where the power is. It’s also the same place in the states. This is how we get laws passed, this is how laws are formulated. But nobody’s telling anybody this and the importance of it in terms of like, civics. Simple civics is no longer being taught. So everybody says, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to vote for the president.’ But the power is not in the presidency. It’s in this.”

Valerie Pounds (next to last) and Al Robinson (last) stand in line to cast early ballots in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican newcomer Herschel Walker, Jonesboro, GA, Nov. 27, 2022. The wait was about 2.5 hours but the sun was out and temperatures were in the mid-60s. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Al Robinson said, “What brought me out today is, I feel like we need a Democrat in this seat. It’s important for us to keep this seat…it makes a difference, not only for the Democrats, but for the Republicans. Now the Republicans want this seat. But if they get this seat, they rule the whole Congress. The power, it’s not in the president, it’s in this position…the Democrats, they’ve really got to stand up and vote. Kids that’s in college, they’ve got to come out and vote. People at home watching the TV gotta come out and vote. Working people gotta come out and vote. All this is very important to everyone. And I hope everyone thinks it’s important.”

Pounds, whose mother was an activist for 80 years, knows what it was like for her mother not to be able to vote in Mississippi.

“I would be doing a disservice to her taking all this time to explain it to us and the next generation not to show up,” she said.

Robinson’s family also knew what it was like to be denied the right to vote.

“My grandmother, she told us about it,” he said. “She didn’t really get all into it but she tried to keep it away from the family. She didn’t want anybody to see how bad [it was]. Once we got older, we see it, we experience it in different states—I have experienced it in different states. I see it here. Now, they’re doing it so undercover, if you don’t keep up with what’s going on in the news, keep up with what’s going on in the Congress, we’ll be set back behind again.”

U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock addresses a Clayton County Democrats rally at the Morrow Convention Center, Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Later, at the Morrow Convention Center, Warnock addressed a rally of Clayton County Democrats, who were joined by special guests Waka Flocka Flame and Lynn Whitfield. Chairman Jeff Turner introduced Warnock, who jogged onto the stage and joked with the crowd.

AUDIO: Warnock addresses Clayton County Dems

“It’s pretty cool to vote for yourself for Senate,” Warnock told cheering local Democratic leaders. Among those present were State Sen. Gail Davenport, State Sen. Valencia Seay, State Rep. Rhonda Burnough, District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick, District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis, former Tax Commissioner Terry Baskin, Morrow Councilwoman Dorothy Dean, Morrow Councilwoman Renee Knight Saunders, Clayton County Democrats Chair Sukari Johnson, environmental activist Felicia Davis, NAACP Chair C. Synamon Baldwin, former District 1 candidate and 2020 alternate elector Alaina Reaves, and dozens of others.

State Sen. Valencia Seay (center) laughs as U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock acknowledges her presence at a Clayton County Democrats rally in Morrow, Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Warnock, who was about 30 minutes late after rallying and casting his vote on Metropolitan Avenue in Atlanta, reviewed some of his accomplishments for the crowd.

“Capped the cost of insulin,” he began.

Several called out, “Thank you.”

“My honor,” he replied, placing his hand over his heart.

“Capped the cost of prescription drugs, is the single largest tax cut for middle and working class families in American history. Secured $6 billion for historically black colleges and universities. Secured debt relief for farmers. Said to the President of the United States while sitting in the Oval Office, ‘Sir, I need you to do meaningful student debt relief. You said you were going to do and we need you to do it. Not, by the way, $10,000 isn’t enough.’ And he did 20,000. So the folks who are Pell Grant eligible, I think, having Senator Warnock in the Oval Office, a graduate of Morehouse College, who went to Morehouse College on a full paid scholarship, who knows what it’s like to struggle to get through school, having me in that office, so I could sit in the Oval Office to advocate for our children and our families, made a huge difference.”

U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock touts his accomplishments at a Clayton County Democrats rally in Morrow, Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

He added, “If you hadn’t sent me to the Senate, Ketanji Brown Jackson wouldn’t be sitting on the Supreme Court. When I say that, I’m not taking a thing from her. She is qualified. More than qualified. But even with all of her qualifications, if you had not sent me to the Senate, she wouldn’t be sitting on the court. They never even would have brought her up before the committee. You think if Mitch McConnell was in charge, she would have been up there in front of the committee? We never would have brought her up. You have the recent history. You know. So vote. It makes a difference.”

He continued, “Now follow me, listen to this. I’ve got colleagues who had the nerve to say Ketanji Brown Jackson, with all of her brilliance, with all of her preparation, is not qualified. And then those same colleagues of mine who said Ketanji Brown Jackson is not qualified, are running around right now, endorsing and campaigning for Herschel Walker.”

“In what universe is Ketanji Brown Jackson unqualified and Herschel Walker is qualified?” asked U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock during a Clayton County Democrats event at the Morrow Convention Center, Nov. 2022. Warnock in in a runoff with Walker for a crucial U.S. Senate seat that could guarantee the Democrats a safe but narrow majority. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

The crowd groaned, clapped, and laughed.

“In what universe is Ketanji Brown Jackson unqualified and Herschel Walker is qualified?”

The crowd applauded and shouted.

U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock poses with the party faithful during a Clayton County Democrats rally at the Morrow Convention Center, Nov. 27, 2022. The event took place on the first day of early voting in Clayton County. Other metro counties started voting on Saturday after two courts found for Warnock and Democrats, but Clayton County elections officials already had locked in the Sunday weekend day. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

“Let me go Waycross on you,” Warnock joked. “My mama would say that they said she weren’t qualified and then, and then, fixed their mouths to say—”

The audience called out in approval.

“Those who know, know,” Warnock replied, drawing laughs.

“Fixed their mouths to say—all right, I’m sorry. I got sophisticated folks here. They had the unmitigated audacity to say that ‘Herschel Walker, he is qualified.’ Really? Herschel Walker is as much a United States senator as he is a police officer. This race is about who’s ready and who’s fit to represent eleven million people for the next six years. This isn’t just about the next year or two. That’s the problem. We’re on such short-term vision.

“Folks just say, ‘Well, we don’t need to worry about it. We got a majority.’ This is about who’s going to represent you for the next six years.”

NAACP Clayton County Branch President C. Synamon Baldwin (left) and DJ Alexander Drexal at a rally for voters who had cast ballots early on Sunday in Forest Park, GA. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

In Forest Park, about two blocks on the other side of Starr Park from the polling location, the Clayton County NAACP held a mini-festival, with a DJ, a taco truck, and a mobile video gaming truck for the kids. Baldwin sported a bright African dress and headwrap, jollying up the volunteers and making sure the Youth Council left the recreation center as clean as they had found it.

NAACP Clayton County Branch Youth Council members Yahodan “Yaho” Mangrum, Cornell “Nelly” Rhodes, and Chansean “Chance” Rhodes clean up after their early-voting event at the Forest Park Recreation Center. President C. Synamon Baldwin praised their efforts at getting out the vote. The event included outdoor activities like a taco truck, a DJ, and a mobile video gaming truck. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Robinson wants people to know there’s more to democracy than voting.

Voters wait in line at the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro, GA to cast ballots in the U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, Nov, 27, 2022. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

“You gotta not only vote, you gotta get involved,” he said. “See what they doing, see what they discussing, see what laws they changing. If you don’t get involved in that, the people gonna be left behind.”

The Clayton Crescent has made it easy for you to find early voting locations. See our story about the election and polling places.

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Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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