Sen. Rev. Rapahel Warnock’s win over Republican challenger Herschel Walker places the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands. Here’s a look at what that means, both for Clayton County and for national politics.

First, the numbers, which are unofficial and incomplete until they are approved by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. With all 70 of Clayton County’s precincts reporting:

  • Warnock got 65,923 votes (89.13%):
    • 26,177 were Election Day votes
    • 37,023 were advance votes
    • 2,723 were absentee by mail votes
    • 0 were provisional votes
  • Walker got 8,036 votes (10.87%):
    • 3,944 were Election Day votes
    • 3,614 were advance votes
    • 478 were absentee by mail votes
    • 0 were provisional votes

Overall, here’s how Clayton County residents chose to cast their ballots:

  • 40,654 voted in advance
  • 30,142 voted on Election Day
  • 3,203 voted absentee by mail

More than half of Clayton County voters AWOL

Voter turnout is usually lower for runoff elections and bad weather, which plagued Election Day, usually favors Republicans. In this case, enough Democrats were willing to stand in line, some for more than two hours, to cast their ballot for Warnock. Of the 179,359 people in Clayton County who are registered to vote, 73,999 actually took part. That’s 41.26%.

Why did 58.74% of Clayton County’s registered voters stay home during the runoff? That’s a question both parties will analyze as they review their get-out-the-vote efforts. Both parties are now using apps to help their foot soldiers pinpoint areas to work.

Several factors that might be driving voter disengagement locally include:

  • Renters, who may be registered to vote but who are new to the area and don’t know how to find their local precinct
  • Voters who do not understand the election process and so don’t participate
  • Voters who think the primary race was the deciding race and so didn’t vote in the runoff
  • Voters who do not have access to or familiarity with computer-driven parts of the process, like checking their voter information on the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page or finding their local precinct on the Clayton County Elections and Registration website
  • Voters whose first language is not English
  • Voters who do not follow the news generally or who do not know where to find local news sources like The Clayton Crescent
  • Voters who did not want to vote for any candidate in the primary for whatever reason (possible deal-breakers include a voter’s opposition to abortion in any case, domestic violence allegations against both candidates, or the candidates’ race)
  • Voters who did not want to vote for either candidate in the runoff
  • Voters who believe their vote will not count in the grand scheme of things
  • Voters who believe their vote will be tampered with based on disinformation
  • Voters who could not get to the polls on any day due to work or transportation issues
  • Voters who could not or would not stand in line for extended periods of time
  • Voters who distrust politicians in general

The Clayton County Republican Party tweeted this about turnout:

Check and double-check

The Clayton County elections office will hold two events that are required by state law to make sure that the election results are valid:

The Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration will meet on Friday, December 9 at 5:30 p.m. to certify the election results. The meeting will be held in-person only at the Clayton County Election Center, 7946 N. McDonough Street
in Jonesboro.

How does Tuesday’s turnout compare to the primary?

Overall, 84,402 voters of the 177,354 active voters in the November 8 primary turned out. That was 47.59% of Clayton County voters actually making their choices among major Congressional statewide, legislative, and local offices, as well as a homestead exemption vote in Morrow that saw only 1,524 of the city’s 3,654 active voters (an abysmal 41.71%) turn out. Here’s a quick summary of the official results from the November 8 primary:

You also can take a look at these official numbers by precinct from the primary (hit CTRL-F 0r CMD-F to search by city more quickly):

In Washington

Warnock’s return to Washington for a full six-year term gives Senate Democrats a 51-seat buffer in that chamber and against actions by the now-Republican-led House of Representatives. House Republicans have said they plan to pursue several investigations, including of the U.S. Department of Justice as various cases involving former President Donald Trump or members of his businesses and administration gather steam. Trump has announced he plans to run for President again in 2024. On Tuesday, the Trump Organization was convicted by a New York state court jury on 17 counts of tax fraud, including conspiracy and keeping false business records. Prior to that, the company’s former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, took a deal to plead guilty to manipulating the company’s books to hide $1.7 million in tax-free benefits he got from the company.

Walker’s loss is one of a string of defeats across the country for Trump-endorsed candidates. Party leaders had pushed back against Trump coming to Georgia in person. One of Trump’s two least-favorite people in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp, stumped for Walker in the runoff, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who recently had been ordered to testify in Fulton County, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who with Warnock cosponsored a major provision in the bipartisan infrastructure and jobs bill, designating I-14 as a high-priority corridor.

This is a concrete example of what members of Congress (and most elected officials) do besides seeking out media outlets to trumpet their ideology to the folks back home:

Should House Republicans who see law enforcement’s prosecution of Trump and his allies as politically motivated tee up impeachments for federal officials in the DOJ, those would be dead in the water. While the House can hold hearings and vote to impeach someone, an impeachment is a charge of wrongdoing. Only the Senate has the power to prosecute an impeachment and remove anyone found guilty from office. That means the House is likely to make a lot of noise but not get Attorney General Merrick Garland removed from office.

Here in Georgia, the state party reportedly is wrangling internally over its leadership. Some want Chairman David Shaffer to step aside. One major player in possibly realigning the state party is Kelly Loeffler, the Trump-appointed senator who Warnock replaced in 2020. Loeffler formed her own political organization, Greater Georgia, after she and former Sen. David Perdue had denied the outcome of the Presidential race and called for Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger, a Republican, to resign. Raffensperger and Kemp were bullied by Trump, who told them to “find” enough votes to throw the 2020 election his way.

After Raffensperger stood up to Trump, Republicans in the Georgia Assembly passed legislation removing him as chair of the State Election Board. (Raffensperger remains on the SEB in an ex officio capacity.)

Raffensperger and his COO, Gabriel Sterling, later testified before the January 6 Committee about Trump’s election interference:

YouTube video

On the Democratic side, the party is looking to move Georgia and Michigan into the early Presidential primary spot long held by Iowa. However, that might not happen, as Axios’ Emma Hurt points out: Georgia law gives the secretary of state, in this case the freshly-reelected Raffensperger, the power to sign off on when the state holds its Presidential primary.

Ultimately, whichever party is able to work across the aisle in two closely-divided chambers of Congress will be able to get legislation passed. Issues of personality, ideology, and character aside, Walker had neither political nor legislative experience, while Warnock, himself a relative newcomer, showed he could work across the aisle with Republicans on a wide range of bills.

Hold them accountable

You can track legislation that your members of Congress are working and voting on here (as well as past legislation) and make up your own mind about whether each is doing a good job:

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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