Voters hold prayer march at Capitol ahead of Tuesday’s runoffs

Lou Engle leads a prayer as participants gathered at Liberty Plaza to pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, January 2, 2021, outside the state Capitol. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Lou Engle leads a prayer as participants gathered at Liberty Plaza to pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, January 2, 2021, outside the state Capitol. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Hundreds of religious voters flocked to downtown Atlanta on Saturday to pray outside the state Capitol ahead of Tuesday’s runoff elections.

The Georgia Prayer March aimed “to encourage people to pray for the Georgia Senate elections” and unite Americans in “intense prayer,” according to organizers.

The event, also called a prayer walk, was hailed as a nonpartisan event, but several speakers cast doubts on the validity of the November presidential race results while encouraging those in attendance to vote for incumbent Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Participants march around the state Capitol during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, January 2, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Participants march around the state Capitol during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, January 2, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Perdue and Loeffler face runoff challenges from Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock to determine control of the U.S. Senate.

“What happens on Tuesday will determine the fate of the republic,” said evangelical pastor Jim Garlow, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event.

Some in attendance criticized Ossoff and Warnock for their stances on homosexuality and abortion, as well as other fiscal and social issues. Several Republican state lawmakers were among Saturday’s crowd.

“We want to gather together to pray that Georgia elects and sends leaders with biblical values to the U.S. Senate,” Garlow said ahead of the event. “We do not tell anyone for whom to vote. That is your decision. We are nonpartisan. We do, however, pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values.”

Participants gathered at Liberty Plaza to pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Participants gathered at Liberty Plaza to pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The large outdoor prayer rally included a relatively diverse crowd, but few people appeared to be wearing masks amid the ongoing pandemic while marchers stuck close together at times. Hoisting signs that read “God Reign Over Government” and “Prayer Changes Everything,” worshippers sang and marched around the state Capitol seven times, symbolic of the fall of Jericho as told in the Old Testament.

The event lasted more than three hours and was livestreamed on multiple social media platforms, amassing more than 15,000 views on Facebook alone.

Participants gathered at Liberty Plaza to pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, January 2, 2021.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Participants gathered at Liberty Plaza to pray for Georgians to vote for candidates with distinctly biblical values during the Georgia Prayer March event in Atlanta on Saturday, January 2, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

A record 3 million Georgia voters cast ballots in the runoff elections before early voting ended last week, setting up a showdown that will be decided Tuesday.

State election data analyzed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicate more ballots have been cast in areas that tend to favor Democrats, an issue that has GOP leaders worried after President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the November election was rigged against him.

Voter turnout lagged in rural, conservative congressional districts through Thursday, especially in northwest Georgia where Trump plans to rally supporters on Monday. But Republicans could make up ground with a strong showing on the day of the runoffs, as in the general election. Trump and Perdue each won about 60% of in-person votes cast on Nov. 3. Loeffler also benefited from Election Day voting in the 20-candidate Senate special election.

The 3 million early votes cast so far have already shattered the previous record for total turnout in a Georgia runoff set in 2008, when 2.1 million people participated in a U.S. Senate runoff between Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin.

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