The historic special election showing in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District runoff last month turned a number of assumptions on their head. Now, looking at new data, we also now know more about who the more than 260,400 voters are. And we all know the outcome: Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff and became the state’s first Republican congresswoman. Here’s how it happened:
Political party affiliation
Early voting: After having watched Ossoff win more of the early vote in the original April 18 special election — and finishing first overall with 48 percent of the vote — Handel significantly stepped up her ground game. Data showed 37 percent of early voters this round had voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, versus 22 percent for the Democratic presidential primary.
Election Day: The split grew when counting all voters. In total, 38 percent of electors in the 6th District runoff had voted in the Republican presidential primary. Those who voted in the Democratic presidential primary dropped to 18 percent. And while voter advocacy groups during this special election made a broad push to sign up new voters, few of those whose actually voted in the runoff were new — 93 percent of all voters also voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Effect of late voter registration
A federal judge in early May extended voter registration in the district through May 21, part of an ongoing lawsuit over how Georgia handles voter registration ahead of federal runoff elections. The district’s original registration deadline had been March 20. As a result, the state said about 8,000 voters had newly registered in the 6th District, bringing total registration to about 526,000 voters overall. The newly registered voters included both those who had not been on the rolls previously as well as so-called “transfer” applications — voters already registered in Georgia who moved into the district after March 20.
Most of them didn’t vote in the runoff: Of all ballots, less than 1.4 percent — or 3,520 voters — were from those who registered in May. Among the 8,000 or so voters who were added to the rolls after the judge’s order, 44 percent turned out.
White, older voters continued to outperform their share of the electorate., and were the dominant force among all voters Turnout among younger voters, however, notably increased between early voting and Election Day.
73.7 percent: Nearly three out of every four early voters was white, outpacing the district as a whole (66 percent of the district’s registered voters overall identify as white).
17.2 percent: Millennials’ share of overall turnout for the runoff, up from about 14 percent during the early voting period. But they also were still underrepresented among voters, given that they account for one-quarter of the district’s overall electorate. Voters we call baby boomers plus, those age 52 and older, cast 53.4 percent of all ballots — despite making up only about 42 percent of the district’s registered voters.
49.6 percent — For the runoff, including early vote and Election Day. For perspective, turnout in April was 37 percent.