Georgia election officials and voting groups are urging voters to go to the polls on Dec. 6 instead of returning ballots via mail in the U.S. Senate runoff, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
A RealClear Politics average on Friday showed Republican Herschel Walker ahead of Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock by an average of 1.4 percentage points. They are in a runoff that will decide whether the Senate remains split 50-50 or Democrats take a 51-49 edge.
Absentee ballots must be received by county election offices before polls close on Jan. 6, thus leaving little time to request and return them through the mail, AJC.com reported. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Monday.
"We are not encouraging absentee voting for those who have other options," Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said, AJC.com reported.
However, voters who have received or will receive absentee ballots soon still have time to return them.
"We have asked voters to request and return absentee ballots immediately," said DeKalb County elections spokesman Erik Burton, AJC.com reported.
More than 207,000 Georgia voters — about 150,000 of them elderly, disabled or overseas — have requested absentee ballots, according to state election data.
There's less time this year (four weeks) between the general election and runoffs than in past years (nine weeks). That meant county election offices didn’t begin mailing ballots until late last week or early this week, AJC.com reported.
Anyone who requested an absentee ballot can decide to vote in-person instead.
The state’s official website says polling places will be open statewide for in-person voting Monday through next Friday. Most metro Atlanta counties this weekend will offer the same, AJC.com reported.
The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed counties to hold early voting this Saturday in the runoff, denying a bid by state Republicans to block the early voting.
Ballot drop boxes are available until Dec. 2.
Due to its importance in the U.S. Senate, the runoff has garnered national attention.
The Walker campaign on Wednesday released a statement about the effects of progressive policies promoted by Warnock and President Joe Biden.
"Thanks to Raphael Warnock, countless families across the U.S. will struggle to provide a Thanksgiving meal this year thanks to his policies," campaign spokesman Will Kiley said.
"Since he has been in office, Warnock has voted for bills that have delivered unaffordable gas, food, and retail prices to everyday Georgians. It’s about time Raphael Warnock gains some self-awareness and realizes that the only person to blame for Thanksgiving dinner being ripped away from countless Georgia families is the man staring him back in the mirror."
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