EXPLAINER: How Georgia’s midterm runoff elections work

Oct 17, 2022, 5:53 PM | Updated: Oct 18, 2022, 4:53 pm
A voter marks her ballot during the first day of early voting in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. ...

A voter marks her ballot during the first day of early voting in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

(AP Photo/Ben Gray)

              A couple leaves the polls after voting on the first day of early voting in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
              A voter marks her ballot during the first day of early voting in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
              Voters make their way to the polls during the first day of early voting in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
              Signs showing the way for voters stands outside a Cobb County voting building during the first day of early voting, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
              A sign showing the way for voters stands outside a Cobb County voting building during the first day of early voting, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Two years ago, control of the U.S. Senate came down to Georgia, with two pivotal runoff election wins tipping the chamber’s favor into Democratic hands.

This fall, it’s possible the newly minted battleground state could again play a major role in how the Senate shakes out, with a marquee contest that, thanks to a third-party candidate, may not be decided until a runoff election a month after Nov. 8.

Here’s a look at the contenders and how the Georgia Senate race — and perhaps control of the chamber — may not be decided until December:


Most attention in Georgia’s contest has focused on incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Herschel Walker, whom polls suggest are headed to a tight contest.

Warnock has campaigned on Democrats’ legislative accomplishments like coronavirus relief and infrastructure reforms. Walker has been beleaguered by a variety of critical attention, including claims he exaggerated his business success, as well as successive reports alleging that he encouraged and paid for a woman’s 2009 abortion and later fathered a child with her.

There is, however, a third-party candidate who could affect either major-party contender’s ability to get a majority of votes on election night. Libertarian Party candidate Chase Oliver, seeking to become Georgia’s first LGBTQ candidate elected to Congress, lost a 2020 special election to replace the late Rep. John Lewis.

With an expected close race, it may not take a considerable share of the vote for Oliver, an Atlanta businessman, to force a runoff by keeping Warnock or Walker from getting a majority Nov. 8.


Under Georgia law, if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote Nov. 8, the Senate race will go to a runoff four weeks later — on Dec. 6 — between the top two vote-getters.

State and federal runoffs used to happen on different days, but a measure passed last year combines those into a single date. Before this year, runoffs for federal general elections were held nine weeks later.


In 2020, control of the U.S. Senate came down to the twin contests in Georgia, both of which were won by Democrats in runoffs that stretched into the next calendar year. In their 2021 runoff elections, Jon Ossoff and Warnock became the first Democrats to win a U.S. Senate election in Georgia since 2000.

Those victories put the chamber at its 50-50 party-control mark for the next two years, tilting in Democrats’ control thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Unlike in 2020, only one of those Georgia seats is up this year. In defeating Republican Sen. David Perdue, Ossoff was elected to a full six-year term and won’t be up for reelection until 2026.

The seat Warnock occupies went up for grabs in August 2019, when GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson announced he was resigning because of failing health. Georgia’s governor appointed Kelly Loeffler to temporarily fill the seat, but she had to run in the November 2020 general election to fill the remaining two years of Isakson’s term.

Having won that contest, Warnock is now seeking his first full, six-year term.


With the Senate so closely divided, any of the 35 races on the ballot this fall could decide the 100-seat chamber’s control. The 2021 wins from Warnock and Ossoff gave President Joe Biden’s nascent administration a boost in Congress, where the Democratic Senate control, coupled with Harris’ tie-breaking votes, helped cement legislative victories on issues like COVID relief packages, the Inflation Reduction Act and a number of administrative appointments.

Now, whether Democrats can hold on to one of the two Senate seats they won two years ago may serve as a test of whether the longtime Republican stronghold continues a shift to swing state territory, thanks in part to demographic shifts, particularly in the economically vibrant area of metropolitan Atlanta.

In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams galvanized Black voters in her bid to become the country’s first African American woman to lead a state, a campaign she narrowly lost. She’s running again this year, in a rematch with GOP Gov. Brian Kemp.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP


Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011...
Associated Press

Boeing’s last 747 to roll out of Washington state factory

After more than half a century, Boeing is set to roll its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday.
15 hours ago
(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein, File)...
Associated Press

Inslee touts new housing program for Spokane’s homeless

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was in Spokane Monday to preview the opening of a new housing project for homeless people, calling the Catalyst Project a step toward ending the state’s homelessness crisis.
15 hours ago
Former first lady Melania Trump, left, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., center, listen as former ...
Associated Press

Cawthorn broke rules over ‘meme’ crypto, told to pay $14K

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Departing U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina has been told to pay over $14,000 to charity after the House Ethics Committee found he financially benefited while purchasing a cryptocurrency that he was promoting and violated conflict of interest rules. The investigation examined the one-term Republican’s purchase of LGB Coin, named […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge orders slaughterhouse cleaners not to hire minors

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge ordered a Wisconsin company that cleans hundreds of slaughterhouses nationwide to ensure it is complying with child labor laws after investigators identified at least 50 minors scrubbing and sanitizing dangerous equipment on overnight shifts at five different meatpacking plants in three states. As part of an agreement with […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Greek Orthodox church at World Trade Center opens at last

NEW YORK (AP) — More than two decades after a tiny Greek Orthodox church in lower Manhattan was destroyed by the falling south tower of the World Trade Center, that church’s far grander replacement opened to the public this week in an elevated park overlooking the rebuilt trade center’s memorial plaza. The new St. Nicholas […]
15 hours ago
A woman holds up a sign while taking part in a demonstration about the use of robots by the San Fra...
Associated Press

San Francisco police can’t use deadly robots for now

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco supervisors voted Tuesday to put the brakes on a controversial policy that would let police use robots for deadly force. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to explicitly ban the use of robots in such fashion for now. But they sent the issue back to a committee for further […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
EXPLAINER: How Georgia’s midterm runoff elections work