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Georgia's 'blank ballot' voters | Who are they? And why did they do it?

Of the more than 3.5 million votes cast in the runoff, 2,694 people picked neither man. Why?

ATLANTA — Roughly 2,700 Georgians took the time to request to fill out and mail in absentee ballots or stand in line at the often rainy polls to vote for —  no one.

Nobody in the U.S. Senate runoff. Nothing.  

Of the more than 3.5 million ballots cast in the December race between U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker, 2,694 people chose neither of the men and left their ballots blank, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State's office.

About 32% of the blank ballots were cast in four of metro Atlanta's largest counties, an 11Alive analysis of election data found.

Those blank ballot voters would not have swung the election. They represent .08% of the total ballots cast as of Friday's counting. The vote hasn't been certified, but Warnock's lead is nearly 97,000 votes.

Still, those voters like Ryan Graham wanted to make a statement. Graham, 37, was the Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor in November's election. He currently serves as the Political Director for the Libertarian Party of Georgia. 

"To me, casting a blank ballot was basically my none of the above," he told 11Alive. "I want to show them that I am going to vote no matter what, but you are not going to get my vote no matter what."

The data

These five of Georgia's 159 counties reported the highest number of blank ballots. 11Alive determined this figure by subtracting the total number of ballots cast versus the total number of votes Warnock and Walker received in each county.

Those blank ballots weren't the only form of electoral protest in the runoff. There are no write-in options in a runoff election. But some folks just stayed home.

Turnout dropped from November's general election by about 400,000 votes. Another roughly 3.4 million registered voters stayed home. But it's unclear if their unhappiness with Walker or Warnock kept them away from the polls.

"I would say everyone who didn't show up is a none-of-the-above vote," Graham said. "They didn't feel like it was important enough to go in there. They said 'I don't care who wins this election. I don't like either of these people.'"

Why did they do it?

Perhaps the most prominent "blank ballot" voter is Republican Geoff Duncan, who is serving out the end of his term as Georgia's lieutenant governor. Duncan did not run for re-election in 2022.

In an interview with CNN, Duncan said he just couldn't vote for Walker or Warnock.

"It was the most disappointing ballot I've ever stared at in my life," he told CNN in an interview. "I walked out of that ballot box showing up to vote but not voting for either one of them."

For Graham, he said neither candidate represented his views.

He said Warnock left him with a "sour taste" after the Democrat repeatedly ignored Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Chase Oliver during the Atlanta Press Club debate ahead of November's general election.

Walker and other Republicans took Libertarian voters for granted. Walker also "didn't really run on any issues," Graham said. Neither candidate attempted to reach out to Libertarian voters, he added.

"I am what a lot of political consultants will call a super voter," Graham said. "But I also want them to know that I am not just going to go vote for the lesser of two evils. I just won't do it."

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