Georgia has transformed into the South’s most electorally competitive state in recent years. White population numbers have fallen, Democrats have gotten better at mobilizing their supporters and a crucial fraction of college-educated white voters have become more open to voting for Democrats.
That ultimately led to President Joe Biden winning Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by a tiny margin of the state’s 5 million overall votes in 2020, followed by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock taking control of the U.S. Senate for their party in twin 2021 runoffs.
This year, two titanic clashes top the Georgia ballot. Warnock is trying to win a full six-year Senate term against Georgia football icon and Republican Herschel Walker. Although Walker has been dogged with questions about his personal and business life, he has remained competitive against Warnock, backed by national Republican groups.
The governor’s race is equally high profile, with Republican incumbent Brian Kemp meeting Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams after Kemp narrowly beat Abrams in 2018 amid accusations that Kemp used his post as secretary of state to erect voting barriers.
This time, Kemp is emphasizing the state’s strong economy and his efforts to put cash in the hands of voters. Abrams is pushing plans to build a more economically equitable state, roll back abortion restrictions and undo Kemp’s moves to loosen gun laws.
Of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats, the most competitive is in southwest Georgia’s 2nd District, where Republican developer and lawyer Chris West is trying to toss out 30-year Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop in a district heavy with military bases and farming.
Democrats recruited their strongest slate of statewide candidates in years but face equally strong Republicans, including GOP incumbents trying to return as attorney general, secretary of state, school superintendent and insurance commissioner.
Republicans are likely to retain their majorities in the state House and Senate.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.
How Georgia Votes
Voters in Georgia can cast a ballot one of three ways: by mail, in-person during early voting and in-person on Election Day. Mail ballots can be requested by any registered voter in Georgia without needing to provide an excuse. Completed domestic ballots must arrive at county election offices by Election Day to be counted. Early in-person voting runs from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4.
The AP does not make projections and will only declare a winner when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap.
Should a candidate declare victory or offer a concession before the AP calls a race, we will cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will make clear that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain why.
The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome. In Georgia, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is 0.5% or less.
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.
What Else Should I Know?
Georgia requires candidates to get more than 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff. On Nov. 8, there are several races that feature three candidates on the ballot, meaning they could potentially head to runoff territory, including the races for governor and U.S. Senate.
If no candidate wins a majority Nov. 8 in a given race, the top two finishers will meet in a Dec. 6 runoff. Republican state lawmakers shortened the state’s runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks as part of their overhaul of Georgia voting law in 2021. There are now shorter windows to return mail ballots or to vote in person ahead of Dec. 6.
Q: What Did We Learn From the Primary?
A: Kemp appeared imperiled among Republicans after the 2020 presidential election, when Trump blamed Kemp for not doing enough to overturn Biden’s narrow win in Georgia. Trump helped lure former U.S. Sen. David Perdue into a primary challenge to Kemp, declaring Kemp a ‘complete and total failure.’
But Kemp motored away from Perdue, winning nearly 74% of the vote. Trump’s attacks also gave Kemp credibility with the narrow margin of Georgia voters who are willing to consider voting for either party — a largely white, college educated and suburban demographic.
Q: What’s Changed Since the Pandemic Election of 2020?
A: Georgia Republicans pushed through a sweeping new voting law in 2021 that has made it harder to vote by absentee ballot, leading Democrats to push people to vote early at polling places instead. The state also rolled back its pandemic-inspired drop boxes, limiting counties to a smaller number and requiring them to be available only inside buildings during business hours.
The state has also reduced the use of provisional ballots for people who show up at the wrong polling place on Election Day and has reinforced the ability to challenge voter qualifications.
Q: What Do Turnout and Advance Vote Look Like?
A: Georgia has more than 7.8 million registered voters. As of Oct. 25, more than 1 million people had cast early votes by mail or in person, putting Georgia on a path to exceed 2018, when 4 million people voted. By comparison, a record 5 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election, while 4.5 million voted in the 2021 Senate runoffs.
Q: How Long Does Counting Usually Take?
A: For the Nov. 3, 2020, general election, Georgia counted approximately 95% of votes by noon the day after the election and finished counting at approximately 3:20 a.m. the day after that. A recount of the votes lasted until Nov. 19.
Q: What Are the Pitfalls With Early Returns?
A: Democratic votes are concentrated in the state’s main urban areas, especially in and around Atlanta. Counties there are also the state’s most populous, and vote counting typically takes longer than in smaller rural districts throughout the state that are dominated by Republicans.