Dec 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Georgia voters are tired

Illustration of hand putting money in ballot box.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

It's Election Day in Georgia — again.

Why it matters: After two high-profile runoffs in two years, four elections in 2022 alone, thousands of ads and text messages jamming Georgians' televisions, phones and radio stations, some Georgia voters are tired.

By the numbers: At least about $400 million in campaign and outside money has been spent so far on Georgia's 2022 Senate election, per Open Secrets.

  • That breaks out to at least $101 per voter who cast a Senate ballot in November.

The campaigns for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker have spent $335 million on TV ads during the general and the runoff, according to NPR, including nearly $80 million in the runoff alone.

  • Inside Elections analyst Jacob Rubashkin estimates there have been more than 20,000 "individual occurrences" of ads run on Georgia airwaves between both parties in the runoff.

What they're saying: "People are tired of it. Both parties, I think, are tired of it. We need a little rest," Republican state Rep. Kasey Carpenter told Axios. "The amount of money spent in this state over the last three years is absurd. And every time we pull something up, every time you're watching a show, you're watching an ad."

  • RNC Georgia committeewoman and frequent Walker surrogate Ginger Howard told Axios that after this election: "I would love to lead the charge on that — no more runoffs!"
  • Democratic state Rep. Jasmine Clark told Axios she's very open to reform with an eye toward 2026. "​​It's a conversation that’s happening in the halls and the back rooms as people are trying to figure out: How can we fix what's clearly broken?”

Reality check: Worn out or not, Georgians are still showing up. Nearly 1.9 million ballots were cast ahead of Dec. 6's Election Day.

State of play: The Secretary of State's office tells Axios they're open to future "improvements" to the process but declined to provide specifics.

  • "Our focus is on the security and integrity of the election that's currently underway, and we will be looking at the entire process for possible improvements once this one is successfully complete," said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs in a statement.

Catch up quick: One proposal that has bipartisan support would replace general election runoffs with an "instant runoff." (Primary runoffs would remain in place.)

  • Voters would rank November candidate choices in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, results would be re-tabulated to take into account second preferences.
  • Advocates argue it could save $75 million in election administration costs — and it could save voters weeks of political inundation.
  • Military and overseas voters used this system in the general election for the first time.

Of note: Warnock said during an October debate he was "willing to have that conversation" about runoff reform after the election. Walker did not show up to that debate.

The big picture: Voters interviewed by Axios were tired of the ads and campaign texts, but were not too tired to vote again. Some were open to a reform like the "instant runoff" that might still preserve the purpose of a runoff: ensuring a majority election.

  • "I'm willing to look at any option, but I don’t want it to just be plurality in November," said Damon Walker of Calhoun, Ga.
  • "I like it because if nobody gets a majority vote you get to choose again, which just seems like the right system to me," said Ethan Knight-Scott of Atlanta. He said he's getting triple the text messages from campaigns because they have mixed him up with his two brothers.

💭 Emma's thought bubble: My sister once heard a first-grader, unprompted, parrot back some of the script of a Raphael Warnock attack ad. It's gone too far, folks.

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