Voters in Georgia cast their ballots Tuesday in the closely watched runoff election between Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. A victory for Warnock would give Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate. The election has seen a record number of early votes, especially in communities of color, but Black Voters Matter co-founder and executive director Cliff Albright says that is “partially a function of the voter suppression” in the state. A new voting law passed by Georgia last year, known as SB 202, reduced the early voting period from three weeks to one and introduced a range of other restrictions.
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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
We end today’s show in Georgia, the final day for voters to cast ballots in the closely watched runoff between Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. A victory for Warnock would give Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate. Despite a new voter suppression law, almost 2 million Georgians cast early votes. This is a record in Georgia state history.
Two of Walker’s former romantic partners have accused him of pressuring them to have abortions, even though he’s an avowed abortion opponent who said during his campaign he would ban abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Last week, a third former romantic partner accused Herschel Walker of violently attacking her.
For more, we’re joined in Atlanta by Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter, which has, as they say, been driving the blackest bus in America across Georgia.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Cliff. Talk about the significance of this day and the record-breaking early voting, though you’re still deeply concerned about who has been disenfranchised.
CLIFF ALBRIGHT: Yeah. Good morning, Amy. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, I mean, we have record-breaking early vote turnout. There’s good news and bad news in that. You know, part of that is clearly that’s largely the result of the incredible organizing of all the groups, all the voting rights and voter mobilization groups in the entire Georgia ecosystem. So shoutouts to all of our coalition.
But we also have to acknowledge that part of the reason that it had to be record-breaking almost every day is because we were squeezing into one week of early voting what usually happens in three weeks of early voting. That was the result of SB 202, the famous Georgia — or, infamous Georgia voter suppression bill that they passed last year. They designed it with surgical precision to reduce the runoff period, to reduce the number of early vote days. They even tried to get rid of Saturday early voting. But, luckily, because of the Warnock campaign and other groups, that was squashed by the courts.
And so, you know, we’re happy around the type of turnout and enthusiasm that we’re seeing, but we know that we’ve got to be cautious in looking at some of that one-week turnout, because, again, that was a function of — partially a function of the voter suppression.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And if Herschel Walker does lose the runoff, what do you feel his Senate campaign will represent in terms of 2024 and years to come, as we’re seeing the National Republican Party seek to recruit more and more conservatives of color to run for office in an effort to siphon off some of the historic Democratic vote in the African American community and in the Latino community?
CLIFF ALBRIGHT: Yeah, you know, that’s — honestly, that’s not so much of a concern of ours, right? If, by some chance, Herschel Walker were to win today, it wouldn’t be because of any large number of Black voters that they were able to siphon off because there was a Black Republican running. If anything, you know, most of the people that we talk to are actually insulted by the fact that the Republicans went out and found just any old Black face to throw into the race, or, more specifically, that Donald Trump found any old Black face to throw into the race. More Black voters are actually insulted by that than being encouraged to come over and vote for the other side.
Keep in mind, this is a candidate who, quite literally, literally just yesterday or the day before yesterday, two days ago, he took pride in being called a “coon,” right? This is what he said — right? — that a coon is a smart animal, and so he was fine with being associated with such. So, you know, most Black voters aren’t voting for that. If Herschel Walker does well, it’s going to be because of the white community, who, quite honestly — you know, he talks about being a vampire or a werewolf. Forty-nine percent of Georgia would probably vote for him if he actually was a werewolf, simply because he has the Republican R after his name.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, you raised the werewolf. This is one of the most amazing ads, I think, in campaign ad history. It’s Raphael Warnock’s ad, but it’s only the voice, except for the very beginning — we’re going to play a part of it right now — of Raphael Warnock saying he takes responsibility for the ad. Go.
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I’m Raphael Warnock, and I approve this message.
HERSCHEL WALKER: You ever watch a stupid movie late at night hoping it’s gonna get better, don’t get better but you keep watching it anyway?
VIEWER 1: OK, I’ve seen this video.
HERSCHEL WALKER: The other night, I was watching this movie. I was watching this movie called Fright Night, Freak Night, or some kind of night. But it was about vampires. I don’t know if you know, but vampires are some cool people.
VIEWER 2: What the hell is he talking about?
VIEWER 3: Is he serious? Is he for real?
HERSCHEL WALKER: A werewolf could kill a vampire. Did you know that? I never knew that. So I don’t want to be a vampire anymore. I want to be a werewolf.
VIEWER 4: Y’all serious about this, right?
HERSCHEL WALKER: So I’ve been telling this little story about this bull out in a field —
VIEWER 5: What on Earth?
HERSCHEL WALKER: — with six cows, and three of them are pregnant.
VIEWER 6: There’s no substance. There’s nothing.
HERSCHEL WALKER: So you know he’s got something going on.
VIEWER 1: It makes me want to laugh, and then it makes me think, “We’re in trouble.”
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the Warnock ad, but those are the words of Herschel Walker. In this last minute we have, Cliff Albright, this race is so significant, but you think a Supreme Court case is even more significant about elections, that’s going to be — that’s taking place tomorrow, oral arguments.
CLIFF ALBRIGHT: Yes. Thank you, Amy. Yes, the Harper-Moore case that is going to be argued tomorrow, which is a case that deals with whether or not state legislatures will have sole authority in deciding their election laws, even surpassing not only federal law but even their own constitutions in their own state courts. And we know how important this is, because we’ve seen that in some of these states over the past couple years it’s been the state courts that have stepped in to curb some of the voter suppression, to curb some of the gerrymandering that we’ve seen taking place. This would give these legislatures, you know, just complete control, separate from the democratic process. This could be — literally, without exaggeration, this could be the final nail in the concept of democracy in this country if these state legislatures are able to run rogue without having any kind of accountability.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, we’ll continue to cover that, Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter.
A very happy birthday to Democracy Now!’s Igor Moreno!
And I’m so glad to be back from Egypt, because I get to go to Juan’s next two talks. He just gave one last week. We’re posting the full talk online at democracynow.org. But this Friday, Juan González is giving one of his final farewell talks at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies at 3 p.m., speaking about 50 years of defending and chronicling America’s workers. That’s Friday at 3:00. Monday at 6:30, he’ll give an address on Latinos, race and empire at the CUNY Graduate Center. Go to democracynow.org for all the details. Juan, I can’t wait to see you there in person. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.