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Polls close in tight race to see if Walker can oust Warnock

More than 1.3 million votes cast on Election Day, Georgia Secretary of State says

Supporters wait for the arrival of Reverend Raphael Warnock, Democratic Senator for Georgia, during a “Get Out the Vote” midterm runoff election rally and Teamsters worksite visit at a UPS facility in Atlanta, Georgia, December 5, 2022.

Cheney Orr | Reuters

More than 1.33 million votes had been cast on the day of the Senate runoff in Georgia as of 6 p.m. ET, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

That figure comes close to matching the level of turnout Georgia saw in the general election last month, Raffensperger said on CNN just under an hour before polls closed.

Georgia saw “very strong turnout,” Raffensperger said, adding, “It’s been a smooth process.”

Kevin Breuninger

Polls close in Georgia Senate runoff

Local residents wait in line to cast their ballots during the midterm runoff elections at Central Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, U.S., December 6, 2022. 

Cheney Orr | Reuters

Polls have closed at 7 p.m. ET in Georgia Senate runoff, 12 hours after they opened for in-person voting — and about one month after Warnock and Walker first locked horns in the general midterm elections.

While voters at some polling sites faced lengthy waits in line, state election officials reported that average wait times were brief, with most people waiting just a few minutes to cast their ballots.

They also noted that if voters are in line by 7 p.m. ET, they are allowed to cast their ballots.

Kevin Breuninger

Warnock campaign outpaces Walker on Twitter

Reverend Raphael Warnock, Democratic Senator for Georgia, gather with supporters during the midterm Senate runoff elections in Norcross, Georgia, December 6, 2022.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign maintained a robust presence on Twitter as voters went to the polls, posting more than two dozen original tweets before polls closed across Georgia.

Warnock’s strong social media presence stood in stark contrast to Republican Herschel Walker, whose campaign did not appear to have posted any original tweets as of 5:30 p.m. on voting day.

While Walker did not post anything original, his campaign retweeted several supportive messages from other Republicans, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Walker has drawn criticism from Republicans during his runoff campaign for maintaining an unconventional campaign schedule, disappearing for more than a week over Thanksgiving and refusing to speak to reporters at events.

— Christina Wilkie

Tuesday turnout is on pace to exceed 1 million voters, state officials say

Gabriel Sterling, Voting System Implementation Manager with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, speaks at a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, January 4, 2021.

Mike Segar | Reuters

More than 1 million voters are expected to cast their ballots on Tuesday in Georgia’s Senate runoff, according to the chief operating officer for the secretary of state.

As of 2 p.m. ET, approximately 800,000 votes had already been logged, Gabriel Sterling told reporters at a press conference.

“We are seeing no lines and pretty sizable turnout,” he said.

Tuesday’s ballots will be added to the nearly 1.9 million early and absentee votes that have already been cast.

— Christina Wilkie

Ye, under fire for anti-Semitic outbursts, posts pro-Herschel Walker message

Rapper Kanye West speaks during his meeting with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 11, 2018.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Ye, the rapper once known as Kanye West who has been broadly denounced over a string of virulently anti-Semitic remarks, earlier Tuesday posted an image of Herschel Walker along with a get-out-the-vote message.

“,” read part of Ye’s post on Instagram, a Meta-owned social media platform that had restricted his account multiple times in recent months.

Ye had expressed support for Walker days earlier during an interview with right-wing conspiracy media outlet Infowars on Thursday. “Herschel Walker changed his life for Christ,” Ye said, “and he might have had abortions but he doesn’t believe in abortions.”

That remark, a reference to reporting alleging Walker pushed at least two ex-lovers to have abortions, came in an interview in which Ye expressed praise for Nazis and Adolf Hitler.

Twitter suspended Ye shortly after the rapper tweeted an image containing a swastika later that day.

Walker’s campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Ye’s post.

Kevin Breuninger

Trump-backed PAC doesn’t buy a single ad for GOP candidate Walker in Georgia runoff

Former college football star and current senatorial candidate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally, as former U.S. President Donald Trump applauds, in Perry, Georgia, U.S. September 25, 2021.

Dustin Chambers | Reuters

A super PAC backed by former President Donald Trump has not invested a single cent into the Georgia Senate runoff, as incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock outspends Republican candidate Herschel Walker in the $84 million race.

The pro-Trump PAC Make America Great Again Inc. was launched in the buildup to Trump’s Nov. 15 announcement of his 2024 run for president. The PAC spent at least $681,000 supporting Walker in the Georgia Senate general election but nothing for today’s contest, according to data from AdImpact and Federal Election Commission.

A spokesman for the MAGA Inc. PAC did not return a request for comment.

Democrats have outspent Republicans in the runoff campaign. Warnock’s campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $27 million on ads backing Warnock, AdImpact’s data shows. Walker and the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent just over $11 million on the runoff race.

Warnock’s campaign had almost three times as much cash on hand as Walker’s in the runup to Georgia’s runoff election.

Other Democratic groups spent an additional $30 million on the runoff while other Republican organizations put up an extra $15.8 million heading into Tuesday.

Brian Schwartz

Dem advertisers outspend GOP by more than 2-to-1 margin in Georgia runoff

Democratic advertisers dominated Georgia’s airwaves in the run-up to the runoff, outspending Republican advertisers by more than a 2-to-1 margin, according to data from AdImpact.

Democratic advertisers spent $57.2 million in the runoff period, versus $27.3 million from GOP advertisers. That’s a much wider gap than in Georgia’s general election, when the percentage of ad spending was split more evenly between the two parties’ advertising groups.

Party-issue groups’ spending also flipped between the Georgia general midterm election and the runoff, according to AdImpact: GOP groups made up more than 58% of ad spending for the state’s general election, but just 35% of ad spending in the runoff.

AdImpact noted that MAGA Inc., a group backed by former President Donald Trump that bought ads for the Nov. 8 Senate race in Georgia, spent nothing in the state during the runoff.

Kevin Breuninger

Justice Department is monitoring Georgia runoff for possible civil rights violations

The Department of Justice said it will monitor Georgia’s Senate runoff election in four counties to ensure compliance with federal voting rights laws.

The federal personnel will be present in Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County and Macon-Bibb County, according to a DOJ press release.

The DOJ has been monitoring elections as a standard practice for decades to confirm compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But in the November midterm elections last month, state officials from Missouri and Florida said they would block federal officers from entering polling sites. DOJ election monitors did not go inside polling places in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The DOJ’s notice about its activities in the Georgia runoff included a link to a webpage where people can report possible violations of voting rights laws.

Kevin Breuninger

Republicans back Walker as scandal-plagued history followed him to the runoff

Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks as former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley listens during a campaign rally on December 5, 2022 in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Walker’s campaign sought to present him as a world-class athlete, a successful businessman, a faithful Christian and an inspirational figure who overcame adversity. But his Senate bid has been weighed down by a stream of gaffes and major scandals about his personal life.

Republicans circled the wagons around the ex-NFL star after The Daily Beast and other news outlets reported that Walker, who expressed staunchly anti-abortion views on the campaign trail, had paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion years earlier. Walker denied the allegations, even as his adult son Christian Walker castigated his father on social media. Less than two weeks before the midterms, a second woman came forward to claim Walker had pushed her to get an abortion.

Walker’s personal life had already been under scrutiny before those allegations came to light. Earlier in the campaign, Walker had acknowledged fathering multiple other children who were not previously known to be related to him. The Senate bid has also raised questions about Walker’s mental health, and accusations by Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, resurfaced that he had been abusive and threatening toward her.

Claims about Walker kept coming in the runoff campaign: Last week, The Daily Beast reported allegations by Cheryl Parsa, an ex-girlfriend of Walker’s, accusing the Senate candidate of violent behavior and infidelity.

Kevin Breuninger

Georgia election officials tout low wait times for in-person voting

Georgia voters are casting ballots without much delay, according to Gabriel Sterling, the chief of operations for Georgia’s secretary of state.

“We are down to a wait time of minute and 25 seconds,” Sterling tweeted around 9:30 a.m. ET.

Two hours after polls opened, turnout at the state’s 2,400 polling locations had exceeded 250,000 votes cast, Sterling tweeted at the time.

“Steady turnout,” Sterling said.

Kevin Breuninger

Warnock-Walker runoff cements Georgia as one of the nation’s most competitive battlegrounds

Once a reliably red state in national elections, Georgia has emerged in recent cycles as one of the most important and competitive swing states in the U.S.

The Peach State has skewed Republican for decades, but it narrowly sided with President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump in 2020, then elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. Those victories gave Democrats a razor-thin Senate majority, which went on to enact major pieces of Biden’s legislative agenda.

Warnock won his seat in a runoff nearly two years ago in a Jan. 2021 special election against GOP contender Kelly Loeffler. Georgia’s other Senate seat went to Democrat Jon Ossoff over Republican David Perdue in a separate runoff that same day.

The high-profile race between Warnock and Walker went to a runoff after no candidate won more than 50% of the vote in the November general election. While Warnock got more votes than Walker, third-party candidate Chase Oliver, a Libertarian, secured just over 2% of the vote, keeping either of the two main contenders from clinching a majority, according to NBC News’ count.

Kevin Breuninger

Georgia’s early voting broke single-day records, but total early turnout falls below last runoff

Voters line up at Metropolitan Library to cast their ballots in the runoff election for the Senate position, between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 29, 2022. 

Megan Varner | Reuters

The early-voting period before the runoff election broke records, with the final day Friday notching the “single biggest day of early voting ever,” state election officials proclaimed.

More than 353,000 voters cast ballots in person on that day, state data show, crushing records set earlier in the week. Georgia’s previous one-day record for early voting was about 233,000 votes, according to Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State.

But total early-voter turnout was still down from the prior Senate runoff in Georgia, data show. About 1.87 million early votes were cast in the runoff between Warnock and Walker, down from the 3.1 million votes cast in Georgia ahead of last year’s runoffs.

That could be because voters in the current runoff election had fewer days to cast their ballots — about one week, compared with the nearly three weeks offered in the prior cycle. The condensed schedule came after Georgia’s GOP-led legislature passed a sweeping 2021 election law. It could have been narrowed further, but the Warnock campaign won a state lawsuit to allow early voting on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Kevin Breuninger