Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s impressive GOP primary win last week, over a challenger backed by former President Donald Trump, appears to have been powered partly by Democrats who voted in the other party’s primary.
Georgia has open primaries, meaning voters don’t register with a specific party and can vote in whatever primary they prefer. That creates the possibility of crossover voting, and the data shows Raffensperger likely benefited from an unusually high crossover vote from Democrats, which helped him reach the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Trump had spent more than a year targeting Raffensperger, claiming with zero evidence that he’d let Democrats steal Georgia’s 2020 election from Trump. Raffensperger was one of the few key Republicans who pushed back against Trump’s lies—he steadfastly disputed Trump’s claims of a stolen election, and would refute them point by point—and he memorably rejected Trump’s request to “find” enough votes for him to win the state.
That put a huge target on Raffensperger’s back in the GOP primary. Early polls showed Rep. Jody Hice in the lead, driven by Trump’s support. In the race’s closing weeks, it was clear that Raffensperger had the momentum—though most local observers expected that neither candidate would hit the 50 percent threshold and the race would wind up in a runoff.
But Raffensperger managed to hit his mark, spending heavily in the closing weeks of the race to do so, as Hice largely stayed off the airwaves. The final result: Raffensperger won 52 percent of the vote, with Hice pulling 33 percent and other minor candidates winning the remainder.
Because Georgia voters don’t register by party, it’s impossible to tell exactly how much of an impact crossover Democrats had on the race. But a new analysis of early voting from the Associated Press found that they may have put Raffensperger over the top.
More than 37,000 people who voted in Georgia’s Democratic primary two years ago voted early in this election, according to the AP’s analysis of information from the data firm L2. And that’s just the early vote, which accounts for about three-quarters of the total vote count. Raffensperger cleared the 50 percent threshold by 27,000 votes, so if these voters had all stayed home, he likely would be heading to a runoff.
A Washington Post analysis conducted in the immediate wake of the election estimated that 77,000 Democrats voted in the GOP primary last Tuesday. They may not have all voted for Raffensperger, but subtracting them from his total would have left him with 49 percent of the vote.
That crossover vote was a much smaller part of Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s resounding victory over former Sen. David Perdue, who also had Trump’s backing. Kemp blew out Perdue by a 74-22 percent margin.
And Raffensperger still would have led Hice by a wide margin in this race if every voter who’d previously voted for a Democratic candidate had stayed home, and his win was powered by a number of factors—any close victory like this often is. But he likely would be facing a runoff election that could have given Hice a chance.
Instead, he’s the GOP nominee for secretary of state, partly because Democratic voters helped put him over the top. And Trump is left licking his wounds.
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