GA06 Runoff — Viewing Guide

On Tuesday, June 20th, the northern suburbs of Atlanta will become the epicenter of the political universe. Here’s what we know so far, and what I’ll be watching as the results come in.

Vote early, vote often

Before the polls open on Election Day, over 140,000 ballots will have been cast. These early votes have provided prognosticators with scattered tea leaves to read while we await final, full results. Bear in mind — we know who voted early, but we don’t know how those people voted (ie, which candidate they supported).

What we do know from our analysis of who has voted already:

  • Republicans comprise a larger share of the early voting electorate than they did in the first round
  • The early voting electorate is whiter than it was in the first round

We’ve detailed all of this in this barely legible chart, that compares the round 1 early vote electorate (when I say “early vote” I’m combining early in person with vote by mail) to the round 2 early vote:

In the first round election, John Ossoff ran up large margins among early voters — 63.7% of early voters supported Ossoff. Given the GOP surge in the early vote in round 2, it’s safe to assume won’t reach that benchmark. Is this a problem for Ossoff? Probably not. The surge in GOP turnout was largely fueled by voters who cast a ballot on Election Day in round 1, likely waiting until the last minute to vote due to a large, unsettled field of GOP candidates. Facing no such dilemma in this round, those voters came out early.

Polls close in Georgia at 7PM. But I wouldn’t plan on eating all of my popcorn quite that early. Precinct reporting takes time, and snags can delay that process even more. Remember this from the first round (note the 11:37 PM timestamp)?:


That said, the early vote results are generally tabulated and released in advance of the Election Day precinct returns. We should start seeing those results in the first 45 minutes after polls close. These early vote results by candidate will provide our first look at how the candidates are performing against expectations.

So what are those expectations?

From our individual-level partisan models, we know that the early vote is more heavily Republican in this round of voting. By how much? 6.5%. The average modeled party score for 1st round early voters was 47.9%. In this 2nd round, the average party score dropped to 41.4%.

So what does this mean?

  • If Ossoff runs 6.5% behind his round 1 early vote performance (ie, wins 57.2% of the vote) he is showing no change from his round 1 performance which yielded him 48.1% of all votes cast
  • If Ossoff runs further ahead of the generic party model, exceeding 57.2% of the early vote, this is an early sign that things are going his way
  • If Ossoff runs further behind modeled partisanship, failing to reach the 57.2% benchmark among all CD6 early voters, this is a sign that he’s in for a steeper uphill climb among Election Day voters

Simplified — When the early vote results are tabulated, think of 57.2% as the target for Ossoff.

Let’s break that goal down by county, using the same method (normalizing Ossoff’s round 1 performance by the change in modeled party turnout in round 2):

Target Ossoff Early Vote Share by County

So where can you find these results? The Secretary of State will launch a site tomorrow that will include these breakouts of vote totals by vote type (mail, early, Election Day). Follow me on Twitter, where I’ll be sure to share the link as it goes live:

Keep in mind — none of this is entirely determinative. Ossoff could run well ahead of these benchmarks and still lose, or fall behind and still win. It’s unlikely that would happen, but certainly possible, based on unexpected turnout surges among Election Day voters. So don’t plan on calling the race by 8 PM.

Oh What a Night

Once you’ve whet your appetite on the early results, you’ll start dining on the main course, precinct level election returns. Be prepared for slow service. Tabulating these results takes time. In round 1 it took more than 4 hours to confirm that this race was headed for a runoff. Given how close the runoff appears, it’s possible we’ll be waiting longer this time around.

As you’re watching results come in, keep in mind that it’s not always obvious where those results are coming from. Uneven reporting from strongholds for one side or the other can produce a skewed perspective. That said, Nate Cohn usually does a great job (along with the NY Times team) providing some context and visualizations for those precinct results. Follow him if you somehow don’t already!

In the end, including early and Election Day results, here are my rough county-level targets for where Ossoff will need to end up in order to win this race:

Target Overall Ossoff % by County

Here’s to a smooth election night, and faster than usual reporting. I’ll be sharing my observations on Twitter throughout the evening. Join me!