The Georgia Senate runoff between Warnock and Walker comes after neither managed to garner 50 percent of the vote in the general election, as per state law.
The results of the highly-anticipated contest will underscore whether Democrats are able to keep voters energized and maintain the gains they saw in Georgia with the 2020 election that initially pushed Warnock into the state's Senate seat, Vox reports. Tuesday's election will also determine whether Democrats secure the 51st Senate seat, which would allow the party to have more control over committees, judicial nominations, and the upper chamber’s legislative agenda.
Although Warnock didn't receive the majority of the votes in the general election, the incumbent secured 49.4 percent of the vote, beating Walker’s 48.5 percent.
Most signs point to a Warnock win as he has been consistently leading in the polls, but the Georgia runoff system is known to dilute Black voting power, which may affect the results of the election.
According to the Washington Post, the general election runoff system was created in 1964 under the influence of powerful Georgia segregationist Denmark Groover who aimed to suppress Black political representation after he lost his reelection bid.
While runoff elections had existed for decades in Southern primaries, Georgia adopted the two-round voting system as a way of “ensuring a conservative White candidate won an election,” said Ashton Ellett of the University of Georgia.
Ten states currently use runoffs in primary elections, but Georgia and Louisiana are the only two that do so in general elections.
“A runoff makes it harder for folks who have less resources to vote. This was before advanced in-person voting or [voting was offered] by mail and when we had many other unfair, iniquitous, undemocratic policies. It wasn’t for a partisan advantage so much as an ideological and cultural one,” Ellett said.
Still, with a number of scandals and campaign trail missteps under his belt, Walker's path to victory is uncertain too. During his campaign, Walker faced allegations of domestic violence and claims that he paid for two women's abortions and lied about his business record, charity donations, and experience in law enforcement.
Both campaigns also face new obstacles with the 2021 Georgia election law that cut the time between the general election and the runoff down to four weeks, compared to 2020's nine-week gap between the two races. Unlike in 2020, no new voters could register between the general election and the runoff, and the Senate majority doesn't hinge on Georgia, which could lessen voter motivation and turnout.
Depending on how close the race is, the results of the 2022 Georgia Senate runoff held on Tuesday may remain unknown for a day or two.