Update 4 (7:50 EST):
The first numbers are just now coming in and they show a slight lead for Republican Karen Handel.
Update 3 (7:45 EST):
After getting their forecasts massively wrong in the Presidential election last November, the New York Times is back with their “Live Forecast” for tonight’s special election. We would say take this with a couple grains of salt.
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) June 20, 2017
Update 2 (7:10 EST):
To our complete ‘shock’, polls in Cobb and Fulton county have closed on time at 7pm EST but polls in the heavily Democratic county of Dekalb have been allowed to stay open until 7:30pm EST because of “electronic voting issues” earlier in the day.
Polls in Cobb, Fulton polls close at 7pm in 6th district, DeKalb polls open until 7:30 pm #GA06
— Election HQ (@ElectionNewsHQ) June 20, 2017
Maybe we’re having memory issues, but it seems like “electronic voting issues” only seem to result in polling extensions in heavily Democratic areas…probably just a coincidence.
Update 1 (6:45 EST):
With polls closing any minute, tonight’s special election for Georgia’s 6th district is being described as a “coin toss.”
That said, CNN and Democrats already seem to be hedging their bets by pointing out that the heavily Democrat-leaning Dekalb County has been hit by severe flood warnings throughout the day which they say has suppressed voter turnout.
Of course, we’re almost certain that the Russians must have figured out a way to make it rain just in the heavily Democratic areas of the 6th District…this is just too ‘convenient’.
— Suzanne Kianpour (@KianpourWorld) June 20, 2017
The key to following tonight’s results will be watching how the candidates fare in the three counties that make up the 6th District: DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton.
Ossoff is expected to do well in DeKalb, but he will likely need big turnout there to overcome Handel’s advantage in Republican-leaning Cobb and Fulton counties. Per the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
North Fulton is home to some of the most conservative turf in the district. Republican Karen Handel hails from there, and it encompasses the highest share of early votes. The county has a reputation for being slow to tally its votes (it took Fulton until after 2 a.m. to fully report during the first round of votes in April), but Fulton’s top elections official said he expects things to move smoothly today since there’s only one race on the ballot.
North DeKalb accounts for the most Democratic-leaning part of the district. It’s where Democrat Jon Ossoff grew up, and it’s also where he’ll be looking to rack up votes. Voting at two precincts there has been extended by 30 minutes after officials reported slow check-ins this morning.
As we mentioned below, it’s particularly crucial to look at Cobb County, which is a traditional Republican stronghold. If Ossoff does well there it’ll be a good sign for his odds to win the congressional seat.
Remember: to win #GA06, Jon Ossoff (D) needs about 61% in DeKalb, 50% in Fulton & 43% in Cobb.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 20, 2017
* * *
Below is our preview of Georgia’s special election from earlier this morning:
Democrats have gone “all-in” on the 30-year-old documentary film-maker and former congressional aide, Jon Ossoff, to win Georgia’s 6th Congressional district. Over the past several months, they have repeatedly portrayed the runoff as a referendum on the Trump administration and a preview of the 2018 mid-terms . Now, as voters head to the polls today, the question is whether their gamble will payoff…certainly, given the amount of money they’ve spent, anything less than a victory will be yet another stinging defeat for Democrats.
The contest for Georgia’s 6th district pits Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel in a race that has drawn national attention and historic levels of spending. As The Mercury News has pointed out, this race has been the costliest in the history of Congressional races with Ossoff raising over $23 million. Ironically, he received nearly 9x more donations from California than from Georgia, a testament to how this special election has morphed into a national contest for Democrats.
Between March 29 and May 31, Ossoff reported receiving 7,218 donations from California, dwarfing the 808 donations he received from Georgia. In the nine Bay Area counties alone, he received 3,063 donations in the same time period.
Those are only a fraction of Ossoff’s total donations, as he doesn’t have to report contributions from people who give less than $200 in total. In addition, many of the individual donations include the same people giving to his campaign multiple times.
According to the Real Clear Politics average, Handel’s support has surged in recent days making the race a dead heat heading into election day. That said, just like last November, we would be shocked if there weren’t some “oversamples” in the polling data.
For those not familiar with the district, Georgia’s 6th is located just north of Atlanta and has been controlled by Republicans since 1979. In fact, it is the same seat that was held by former Speaker Newt Gingrich from 1979 – 1999. And while the district had been a stronghold for Republican presidential candidates, Trump just narrowly bested Clinton in 2016.
Of course, with Republicans holding a substantial majority in the House, today’s election will have minimal practical ramifications in the near term. Moreover, while the winning party will undoubtedly cast the results as a perfect predictor of how the 2018 mid-terms will play out, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight notes that anything short of a blowout will provide minimal insight into the next election cycle.
“If either Democrat Jon Ossoff or Republican Karen Handel wins narrowly, it will be portrayed as a more important predictive signal than it really is. If either Handel or Ossoff wins by more than about 5 percentage points — which is entirely possible given the historic (in)accuracy of special election polls — you can dispense with some of the subtlety in interpreting the results, especially if the South Carolina outcome tells a similar story. Otherwise, Tuesday’s results probably ought to be interpreted with a fair amount of caution — and they probably won’t be.”
For those not familiar with Georgia’s 6th District, here are some helpful maps to explains who is expected to perform best and where.
— POLITICO (@politico) June 19, 2017
With that intro, here are The Hill’s “things to watch” as voting gets underway:
1. Will the huge turnout trend continue?
While special elections typically convince few voters to head to the polls, the outsized attention on the Georgia special election has led to booming turnout.
During April’s primary election, 194,000 voters cast their ballot, with 57,000 of those votes coming early.
More than 143,000 voters have already voted early for Tuesday’s matchup between Ossoff and Handel, a figure that means the runoff turnout will likely eclipse that of the April primary. Some observers say Tuesday’s figures could even surpass the number of people who voted in the district for the 2014 midterm election.
Strategists in the state expect Handel to do significantly better with the early vote compared to April’s primary, when she was competing against nearly a dozen Republicans.
Ossoff will also need to have strong early-vote numbers, especially since Republicans historically do better with Election Day turnout.
Will GOP strongholds and white women save Handel?
2. Can Ossoff flip Republican moderates and turn out black voters?
While Ossoff won easily in April’s first round of voting with 17 other candidates, more voters backed a Republican than a Democrat. So with turnout already looking high, experts believe Ossoff needs to increase his margin by about 6,000 or more votes to be in good shape.
Ossoff also has to turn out black voters, whose enthusiasm flagged in 2016 after being a reliable voting bloc during Obama’s two elections. The Democratic hopeful went to several events on Saturday with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, to celebrate Juneteenth, which commemorates the abolition of slavery.
3. Can Democrats keep outperforming Clinton?
While Democrats have failed to flip any Republican seats in special elections this year, they have seen one promising trend — candidates keep outperforming Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margins.
4. What does the vote mean for Trump’s agenda?
The record-setting spending, the furious jockeying between national parties and the occasional cameos from Hollywood celebrities are all happening for one reason: Trump.
With few electoral opportunities between Trump’s election and the 2018 midterms, the suburban Atlanta congressional seat has become the closest thing to a referendum on Trump’s agenda.
Democrats want to frame their excitement and fundraising as a result of anti-Trump frustration, so a win for them will be seen as a victory over Trump.
If Ossoff wins, look for Democrats to seize on that message as a warning shot for 2018. An Ossoff victory could dampen the spirits of GOP donors, convince more politicians to break from their president and trigger retirements by Republican lawmakers fearing a tough reelection fight.
So how will it all turn out? Will Democrats hand Trump his first big loss and a taste of what is to come in 2018 or, just like in November, did the Dems just spend an obscene amount of money for absolutely nothing?